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Yuba City dad with baby on the way scammed out of nearly $50K buying SUV online | Call Kurtis Investigates

California dad scammed out of nearly $50K buying SUV online
California dad scammed out of nearly $50K buying SUV online 04:20

YUBA CITY — Deandre Hobbs and his wife realized they needed an SUV for their growing family—their two-year-old is about to get a sibling.

For a year, Hobbs meticulously priced vehicles online before finding a 2021 GMC Yukon Denali through Facebook Marketplace. It linked him to an Idaho dealership listing the vehicle for $52,900. That was $7,500 less than other dealerships.

Dobbs requested vehicle records, as well as specific video of the SUV, the tires, and the running engine. Within minutes, the salesperson sent each video he requested, he said.

After weeks of phone calls and haggling, Hobbs got the dealership down to $47,000, so he wired off the money.

"We had no reason not to believe them because of...the show he kind of put on," Hobbs said.

The SUV was supposed to be shipped from Idaho to Yuba City within three days. The dealer kept changing the delivery date, blaming a shipping issue.

With his baby's due date approaching, Hobbs grew impatient.

"I flew to Idaho, rented a car, drove to the location of where the dealership should be, and the dealership was closed," he said.

There was no dealership. He realized he was scammed out of the money he and his wife spent two to three years saving.

"It was something I was doing for my family, so I felt like I made a poor decision, you know, for my family," he said.

Hobbs then spotted the same SUV for sale again on Facebook Marketplace.  This time, it was linked to a dealership in Pennsylvania with the same exact professional-looking website with the same staff.

The only difference was the photo of the building for the supposed dealership.

"So, it's like they almost copied and pasted," he said.

I ran the Pennsylvania address through Google Earth and went to street view.  It's apparent that someone took the street view image of an old auto repair shop located at that address and photoshopped text of the name of the dealership listed on the website.

I decided to Google Image search the staff members, including "CEO Antonio." Up popped the same picture with a phone number. I called it.

"Are you, Antonio?" I asked.

He answered, "No. Obviously not."

He's Frank D'Ambrosia, a real estate agent in Rochester, New York. The scammers lifted his photo right off his professional page.

"I had no idea until you contacted me," D'Ambrosia said. "Somebody's hijacking your identity."

He said he also learned that someone was using his image as part of an apartment scam in Canada. He got a call from an upset mother.

"I said, 'I don't do rentals,' " D'Ambrosia said. "I don't know what you're talking about."

He worries where his face will pop up next.

"Once they figure out the process that works, it's just going to perpetuate," D'Ambrosia said.

Hobbs brought his case to his local police department but didn't get much help.

"They basically said it's not worth their time because 99% of the fraud cases that they take on, they don't catch the guy or the people," Hobbs said.

We brought Hobbs' case to the FBI's Jimmy Hassani who recognized Hobbs really did his due diligence before sending off money.  Hassani said that on average, people in the Sacramento region give scammers $12 million a month. He said that when people report wire fraud to the FBI's internet complaint center within 48 hours, the agency has a 70% recovery rate.

"If you report within a reasonable amount of time, it's likely," Hassani said. "We can't promise the entire amount, but it's likely we'll get it."

Hobbs didn't meet that deadline. His newborn is now here. He and his wife are now working again to save enough money for a family SUV.

"Hopefully, one day they get caught," Hobbs said. "I've tried to reflect on it and say, 'OK, it's just money. We're still living. We have a roof over our head.' Things like that. But it's devastating at this point."

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