ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. - Some citizens are still paying the price for visiting a St. Louis County car lot. Police said the owner took out loans to customers who didn't buy cars.
"I lost my previous job and everything," said Chris Lambert. "I didn't have transportation, you know? I had to start all the way over from scratch."
Lambert visited Autoway Car Sales on St. Charles Rock Road in Pagedale. The man who operated it, Anas Alshurafa, has since been jailed.
Lambert is one of the few people who got a car in exchange for his loan but only for a couple months. He said he put down $2,000 cash and made two $300 payments.
"I got my papers are right here," he said.
Lambert said the car salesman told him to bring the car by so he could fix something.
"I go in there, he takes my key to the car and tells me that I can't drive the car off the lot," he said. "He's basically keeping the car. I can't do anything unless I get a cosigner and a thousand dollars cash."
Interim Pagedale Police Chief Eddie Simmons said Lambert was intimidated.
"The guy was young - scared and he left. So he got his sister to come back. She was gonna co-sign for him, but the car had been sold. (Autoway) sold the car," Chief Simmons said. "He stole the car. That's all he did."
Chief Simmons said Lambert's one of dozens of victims.
"That lot up there has caused so much hurt and grief to people," he said.
In December, Pagedale police and federal agents ran VINs and seized every vehicle on the lot. Every car towed now sits on an impound lot. Most of them are in the names of people who did not even know they had loans.
Each vehicle comes with its own sad story.
"There was this older lady who had perfect credit and he just ruined her credit, just kept buying cars and putting cars in her name and everything until she's…and she's on her deathbed also," Chief Simmons said.
The chief said the lot owner continued scamming people even after he knew investigators were watching.
"The FBI went up there and did a raid on that a few months back before this one and right after they left he did 20 deals," he said. "He just kept doing them. He didn't care."
Lambert always thought he was alone until he saw the raid on Fox 2 News.
"I was kind of surprised and happy because you know what they say - what goes around comes around," he said.
In federal court, the judge told Alshurafa that immigration agents had been trying to deport him, but the courts will prosecute him here first.