Edmonton family jailed after buying stolen car online

Tammy Carifelle, her husband and her son spent hours in jail after they tried to trade in a car they bought on Kijiji. It was stolen.

Family of three ends up temporarily behind bars after buying hot car on Kijiji

Tammy Carifelle with husband Ron Stanley and son Jade Garcia (foreground) were arrested and put in jail after trying to trade in a car they bought on Kijiji. They later found out it was stolen.

Tammy Carifelle, her husband and her son found themselves locked up in a jail cell in the southeast Edmonton police station on Nov. 16.

They had bought a car on Kijiji only to find out days later that it was stolen.

The family had been buying, selling and trading up cars and trucks on Kijiji for years.

The 2006 Dodge Charger that was traded for another car in a McDonald's parking lot. (supplied)

Carifelle and her 23-year-old son Jade Garcia traded a 2006 Dodge Charger for a 2013 Ford Taurus in a McDonald's parking lot on Nov 14. They had traded more than half a dozen vehicles this way and nothing had gone wrong.

The new car was a step up, Carifelle said.

"We were happy because he moved up," she said. "We were excited for my son because he got a good vehicle."

Garcia made sure the vehicle identification number (VIN) on the car matched the bill of sale. It did.

Then they insured the car using the same VIN, without any indication there was anything wrong.

Next they took the Taurus to a garage to be inspected. This step was needed before they could register it because the vehicle was from outside of Alberta.

An example of a 2013 Ford Taurus, similar to the one Jade Garcia got in trade for the Charger. (supplied)

When they found it needed new tires, a brake job and other repairs that would cost $1,432.62, Carifelle and Garcia decided to bring it to a dealer to trade or sell.

With husband Ron Stanley in tow, they went to Freedom Ford. 

Carifelle said the dealership offered to let them trade the Taurus for another vehicle, and gave them money to go to a nearby restaurant while the paperwork was completed. They were back in half an hour.

"All of a sudden these two cops come around the corner," she said. "They told us that we were in possession of a stolen car and we were under arrest."

"I was scared. My son was scared. We couldn't believe that this happened to us. We had no idea the car was stolen."

Freedom Ford wouldn't talk with CBC because the case is under investigation.

Carifelle and her family were taken to the southeast division station and put in separate cells.

They were sent home hours later, and told the investigation was ongoing.

Buyer beware

Const. Mike Walkom is with the Edmonton police cyber crimes unit.

He said websites like Kijiji have made it easier for people to sell hot property.

In the old days, he said, sellers placed ads in newspapers, with phone numbers and addresses, creating paper trails.

Not so with internet sales.
Const. Mike Walkom said the internet has made it easier to sell hot property. (CBC)

"There's a lot more anonymity for people," Walkom said. "They can hide behind different email addresses, different phone numbers that are easily changed. It's made it much more that the seller can remain anonymous."

What hasn't changed, said Walkom, is the actual sale.

How to protect yourself

"Whether you're buying a car or buying an iPod, I suggest this for everybody," Walkom said. "Get a bill of sale, and when you get a bill of sale, you verify the person's identity that is selling it to you by looking at a piece of photo [identification]," he said.

"And confirming they're one and the same. And having that name written down on a piece of paper with a driver's licence number."

There are services that used-car buyers can pay for to get a history of the vehicle. For about $65 you can get details such as whether the car was in an accident or had an insurance claim, and whether it's been stolen.

But Walkom said there's a free service operated by the Canadian Police Information Centre that people can use to check anything — from iPods to bicycles and cars — to see if they're stolen. All that's needed is a serial number or VIN.

Police say on average in Edmonton, 10 vehicles are stolen every day.

Walkom wouldn't talk about the specific case involving Carifelle and her family because it's still an open investigation.

But he said if someone is in possession of stolen property, police can put them behind bars while they sort out whether they're dealing with a thief or someone who was either duped or wilfully negligent.

You can be charged

"If the police can prove that you were willfully blind with being in possession of this property, then yes," Walkom said.

"So yeah, you didn't go and steal it yourself, or no the person didn't tell you, 'Yeah this is stolen property,' but if there's a set of circumstances in place that would indicate that a reasonable person would have known it was stolen, then yes, you can be charged."

Kijiji, the online buy-and-sell site used in this case, says it does what it can to protect its users.

Shawn McIntyre, community manager at Kijiji Canada, sent a written response to CBC.

"This is a rare and unfortunate situation," McIntyre said.

"Kijiji does as much as possible to help protect users by reviewing ads for tell-tale signs of possibly stolen goods, such as brand new items that are vastly underpriced.

"With cars, we advise people to always ask the seller to see a Used Vehicle Information Package (UVIP) and to request and read a copy of the vehicle's CarProof vehicle history report. Legitimate sellers should be able to produce both types of documentation. If they can't, buyers should consider that a red flag."

Tammy Carifelle said even though her family lost its only method of transportation and was embarrassed, her son will continue to buy and trade vehicles online.

"He wants to go right into the registry office and do a check on it [to make sure it's not stolen] before he does anything," she said.