Advised to FILE THEFT BY DECEPTION charges, and then take him to small claims court; should I (and how do I get treble damages)?

Asked almost 3 years ago - Sharpsburg, GA

My 21yo daughter purchased a car from a 50yo man who did not disclose that the car had a branded title--REBUILT. Yes it was on the title, but he physically covered the title with the bill of sale so that she did not see anything but the VIN, as he told her to compare the VINs. He then folded the two papers together, title still covered, and stuffed them into an envelope. She never touched the title until the next day. As soon as she got home, the check engine light came on, and her dad called to ask about it. The man, even when asked about any wrecks, never told it was rebuilt, and the price he charged certainly shows he hid this info: OVER $4000 for a 2001 Eclipse! Also, there are no permanently affixed plates stating REBUILT as required in GA Code 43-3-37. Aren't those REQUIRED by law?

Additional information

Is this a legitimate enough case for her to file criminal charges in good faith that he has defrauded her? I don't want her to come under fire for "false charges," but this man was just plain wrong and deceitful. Her damages, aside from the fact that this car is not working right, are due to the car that she thought was clean and worth around 4K, and she paid more, is worth maybe $800. I know that civil court is the only way to try to recoup her money, but his actions were criminal. Can anyone tell me if the GA Code I mentioned above requires those two plates to be permanently affixed? Thanks so much!!

Attorney answers (1)

  1. Ronald Lee Burdge

    Contributor Level 20


    Lawyers agree


    Answered . This sounds like a case of fraud. Every state has its own definition of what “fraud” is. Generally, it is a lie that costs you money. But lies can come in different forms. It could be an outright lie, where they know that in fact what they are saying to you is a lie. It could also be a part-truth statement, where they say something that is only partly true and lie to you or mislead you about the rest of what they are saying. Or it could be hiding the truth from you by not telling you something that they know you would want to know. No matter what kind of lie it might be though, unless you lose something because of it, you have not been damaged. And “damages” are required for you to be able to legally do anything about being defrauded in a transaction. To learn more about Fraud, read this free online Avvo Legal Guide “What is Fraud?” here: Because the law is different in each state though, if you think you are the victim of fraud then you need to talk to a local Fraud Law attorney who deals with your kind of situation or case. You may be able to file your case in your local small claims court and not even need an attorney. Still, a local attorney can tell you your rights and answer your questions and give you tips on how to handle your case in small claims court by yourself if you decide to go that way. Call your local attorney's Bar Association and ask for a referral to an Fraud or Consumer Law attorney near you or you can go to this web site page for a Free Online 50 State National List of Consumer Law Lawyers ( and find one near you (lawyers don’t pay to get listed here and most of them are members of the only national association for Consumer Law lawyers, Most Consumer Law attorneys also know Fraud laws. But act quickly because for every legal right you have, there is only a limited amount of time to actually file a lawsuit in court or your rights expire (it's called the statute of limitations), so don't waste your time getting to a Consumer Law attorney and finding out what your rights are. And don’t bother talking with an attorney who handles just other areas of law because, frankly, Fraud Law and particularly “car sales fraud law” is a special area with its own laws, regulations, rules, and strategies and tactics. If this answer was helpful, please give it a “Vote Up” below. Thanks for asking and good luck. Ron Burdge,,,

    Go to this web site page for a Free Online 50 State National List of Consumer Law Lawyers

    What is Fraud? Read this Avvo Legal Guide and find out before you become a victim of fraud, click here

    Are you a victim of fraud? Learn the 3 kinds of fraud, click here

    This answer is for general purposes only and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Click the link to... more

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