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Dude, where's my car?

The owner took it in for an oil change, but when he went to pick it up, it was gone.

By ANNE LINDBERG, Times Staff Writer
Published January 25, 2008


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photo
[John Pendygraft | Times]
Marv Creek, 61, left his 1994 Honda del Sol at a Tire Kingdom last November to get the oil changed. When he came back that afternoon, the car was gone, and the people at Tire Kingdom denied he'd ever left it there.

Marv Creek dropped off his beloved Honda del Sol to get the oil changed and the tires balanced.

Later in the day, he says, he got a call from Tire Kingdom at 3398 34th St. N confirming the work he wanted done.

The caller said the Honda would be ready around 5:30 or 6 p.m.

So far, so good.

When he got there, however, he was hit with jaw-dropping news. Not only was the car not ready, it wasn't there at all. And the people at Tire Kingdom were telling him they never had the car.

"Sir, you've never dropped your car off here," he says he was told.

Creek was stunned.

The Honda was nowhere to be found. Apparently it had been stolen soon after he dropped it off, right out of the parking lot.

The car was found two days later - with stolen tools in the back, a crack pipe in the ashtray and the smell of the drug throughout.

Creek had left his checkbook and cell phone in the car, and there was a piece of paper in the vehicle with writing suggesting someone had been practicing his signature.

Creek was glad to have his treasured black '94 del Sol returned, but he says repairs and detailing could set him back more than $5,000.

He thinks Tire Kingdom should pay it.

Tire Kingdom has declined, he said.

"I kept thinking someone was going to do something....This whole thing has just become a joke," Creek said Monday. "If I can just stop (this) from ever happening again. That's my goal."

A man named Rick who answered the phone Monday at the Tire Kingdom identified himself as the manager but declined to comment because attorneys are handling the matter.

When asked for the attorneys' phone number, Rick said, "No, nope, nope," and hung up the phone.

No arrests have been made, though two witnesses saw the kids who were driving the car when it was found. And, Creek said, the kids have admitted driving it.

Pinellas County sheriff's spokeswoman Cecelia Barreda said the kids who were driving the car gave deputies the name of someone else who may have taken the car.

The information was turned over to the St. Petersburg Police Department, which had the original report because the Tire Kingdom is in the city limits.

St. Petersburg police spokesman George Kajtsa said officers believed there was enough evidence to warrant a charge of auto theft.

"We don't know why the sheriff's department didn't pursue it," Kajtsa said. "We turned it over to the state attorney."

The state attorney will decide if the matter goes any further.

Creek's saga began Nov. 5.

He dropped the car off at the Tire Kingdom and rode with his business partner to an appointment.

The two own the Maaco at 4875 34th St. N in the unincorporatedLealman area.

Creek said he handed the key to a man named "Charlie," told him what he wanted done and went on his way. He did not get any receipt but thought things would be okay. After all, he'd been a customer there for nine or 10 years.

He did have a slight qualm that things might not be quite right when he got a call around 3 p.m. asking what he wanted done with the car. But he shrugged off his concern, figuring Tire Kingdom had been busy and was ensuring the right work was done.

Then came the puzzling standoff.

"I'm not senile," said the 61-year-old Creek. He said he called the company's corporate headquarters, where he talked with someone who said: "'I don't know what kind of insurance fraud you're trying to commit.' I said, 'It's not an insurance scam. I want my car back.'"

[Last modified January 24, 2008, 21:16:54]


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