A San Jose car dealer has made good on his promise to repay $65,000 after a family accused him of stealing their money following the sale of their collector car.
Flor Madsen said she would be forced into bankruptcy and forced to close a senior care facility she has operated for decades in Santa Cruz if the owner of Steven’s Creek Auto Mall continued to withhold the money from the sale of her 1999 Ferrari Spider.
“I thought I was going to go bankrupt,” Madsen told NBC Bay Area Chief Investigator Tony Kovaleski. “Like I told you, the reason I sold the car was because I needed the money.”
Finding no resolution after contacting San Jose police, the California Department of Motor Vehicles and the Santa Clara County District Attorney, Madsen and her family turned to the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit.
After reviewing the transaction, police and the District Attorney felt the situation was a civil matter and did not file charges. However, the California Department of Motor Vehicles continues its investigation of the transaction.
In August of last year, Madsen signed a consignment contract with Stevens Creek Auto Mall to sell her collector Ferrari. She had purchased the car as an investment and with the challenges of the current economy needed to sell it to keep her senior car facility in business. The contract specifically required Steven’s Creek Auto Mall to pay Madsen $65,000 within 20 days of the vehicle’s sale.
The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit went to Steven’s Creek Auto Mall in May with Madsen’s daughter Louise Thompson. With hidden cameras rolling the owner of the San Jose dealership, Ron Battistella answered the family’s questions.
“You stole my mother’s money,” Thompson said.
Admitting the money was gone, Battistella had responded “it got sucked into a black hole.”
During the meeting with Thompson, Battistella said the money was used to keep his business operating.
Employees watched Thompson plead her case as she stood in the middle of the show room on Stevens Creek Boulevard in San Jose.
“My mother could lose her business,” she said. “My mother runs a reputable business taking care of elderly people. You have put us in a position by not paying money on a car,” added Thompson.
After initially declining interview requests from NBC Bay Area, Battistella did agree to explain his position during an interview with Kovaleski.
“You took her money and you used it to run your business?” Kovaleski asked.
“If you want to say I did that, that’s fine,” Battistella said.
Kovaleski followed, “Is that good business?”
“It’s not good business, no,” Battistella said. “It’s not good business, no. Absolutely not. It’s her money and it’s been delayed.”
Battistella is a car dealer with a checkered past. One that includes problems with Internal Revenue Service and the State of California.
He agreed once again, to sit down with Kovaleski. Steven’s Creek Auto Mall was nearly empty. He owned up to the $65,000 glitch.
“Was this a bit of a wakeup call for you as a business man?” asked Kovaleski.
“Well, yeah,” replied Battistella. “It was a wakeup call to have the negative publicity. Yeah, that was a wakeup call and it was unfortunate that it happened. But we are fortunate that we got it done and complete and I think everyone is happy.”
Back at Flor’s Senior Care Facility in Santa Cruz, Madsen believes she knows what motivated Battistella to return the money.
“Did you ever think you were going to get that money?” asked Kovaleski.
Madsen quickly replied, “No. I guess he got scared because of the news. And I guess, you know, he didn’t want it to ruin his name.”
She is relieved she received her $65,000 from the San Jose dealer, but also remains concerned.
“I am happy he did it, but I hope he never does this to anyone again. So I am happy,” Madsen said. “We all make mistakes, but I hope he learns from his mistake, not to make anyone feel so uncomfortable like I have felt.”
The Investigative Unit will continue to report further developments.