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Vacant Dodge dealership yields customer checks & info
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Manteca Police officers Stephen Schluer and Adam McCallon attempt to evaluate customer files left atop file cabinets as well as in the drawers of the former Manteca Dodge dealership. - photo by GLENN KAHL
A shuttered auto dealership — with customers’ files left for the taking — has raised the concern of Manteca Police officers.

The new and used car Manteca Dodge building, at 1801 East Yosemite Avenue, had been burglarized numerous times with car parts, computers and tools being taken — some found later by police in homes throughout the city.

A Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) inspector went through the file cabinets and stacks of paper work atop other office cabinets and desks with Manteca Police officers late Thursday afternoon in an attempt to evaluate what of value had been left behind by the dealership staff when it closed in late summer.

Manteca corporal Stephen Schluer located a full box of DMV customer refund checks on top of a desk in a back office that had been sent to the dealership for distribution to customers.

The checks had been issued for overpayment of registration fees that had been handled through the Dodge dealership serving as an agent for DMV.

In addition to the checks there were vehicle titles, sales records, computer financial records, DMV records, customer signatures, and social security numbers, police said.

The DMV office in Stockton was not able to comment on just what actions they might be taking in the case.  One spokesman said that his office had to first evaluate what they actually had in their hands throughout the empty dealership building.

The business had long operated under the name of Curt Hughes Dodge until Hughes sold the business to his son-in-law Stefan who is reportedly out of the area and is now living in Texas.

Police have arrested a number of transients who had taken up residence inside the offices of the building since it closed last summer.  In one case recently a police canine located an intruder in a closet in the auto shop area.  The man resisted and Corporal Randy Chiek’s police dog “Blade” took him down when he fought with the canine.

Chiek said the front of the office building looked untouched because thieves had been entering through rear doors — having cut a large hole in the back fence on the property.  It was Chiek who worked to bring a DMV investigator down to the scene making them aware of the seriousness of the situation.
The Manteca canine officer said he had located license plates that had never been delivered to customers as well as vehicle registrations that should have been mailed out to customers but were still in the office.

He said what really concerned him was all the loan documentation and how people had been compromised with their personal information.

Chiek noted that if a person had bought a car there in the last few years there was a good chance all of their loan papers, their signatures, and their social security numbers were available to anyone who walked into the office area in the dark of night.

Chiek elaborated on what he had found in the building in past months with hundreds of missing Dodge keys that criminals could shave down for access to cars on the street.

Auto windshields were found missing or stolen from the property and computer monitors had been thrown down on the floors of service bays.  The officer said countless tools had been taken from the service areas along with a smog machine and an engine analysis machine — found last month during a warrant service in the 400 block of Chestnut Street.

A costly DMV printer and the computer main frame had all turned up missing from the facility as well, he said.