Thanks for using Avvo. I am Josh King, General Counsel for Avvo. Because we are receiving so many questions right now, it may take longer for some of our loyal Avvo lawyers to get back to you. In the meantime, I wanted to offer some preliminary help. Please keep in mind that I am not an OH lawyer, and to get a definitive answer on this you should consult a top Avvo-rated lawyer in your area.
You'll want to stay persistant here - keep calling and being a pest; he should get the title for you . . . unless he doesn't have them (yes, it could be stolen property). Depending on the value, you could sue in small claims to get your money back - the limit in OH is only $3000.
Ohio, like most states, is a "strict title" state. That means that if a legal title exists then you don't have any legal ownership interest in it until your name is on the title. Whoever really has their name on the title may be able to come get it. Given the runaround you seem to have gotten, you should call a local lawyer to find out your legal rights. If you aren't sure who to call, contact your local attorney Bar Association and ask for a referral to a "contract" lawyer, who is one who is well experienced in this area of the law. If you just want your money back, you should contact the local Small Claims court where the person lives and find out if your purchase price is within the limits for their money jurisdiction. If so, you may not need an attorney to file a claim in Small Claims Court. If not, then you will probably need an attorney's help to get your money back or to get the titles. If there is some good reason for there being no titles anymore, such as they were lost or destroyed, then your seller can get a duplicate title and sign that over to you but you may need to get their cooperation to get that done. Talking with an attorney will help you understand your legal rights, but for every legal right you have there is a limited amount of time within which you must file a lawsuit or you will lose your legal rights forever, so see an attorney soon.