Reporting Bill Hudson
WOODBURY, Minn. (WCCO) — It was supposed to be a simple transaction between a seller and a buyer, who were meeting to conclude the deal in a Kohl’s parking lot.
A Woodbury man spotted an ad on Craigslist for a 2006 Cadillac STS with low miles. The seller said his name was “James Fisher” and that he was “desperate for cash to pay for his son’s college tuition.”
The man handed over $10,300 in cash and drove away with the Cadillac and the car’s supposed title.
“In this day and age, you have to be careful, you just do,” cautioned Washington County Attorney Pete Orput.
Orput said the deal was a total fraud and that Fisher’s real name is actually Travis Edward Clevenger. In fact, Clevenger is just 22 years old and with no son in college.
The car he was selling was stolen during a previous transaction between Clevenger and a woman in Albertville. The vehicle’s title was from a similar make and model car that had been purchased for parts.
According to police investigators, Clevenger bought cheap junk cars for their titles and then dummied them up for his next transactions. He would often pay just $100 to $150 for the junk car and title. Clevenger is accused of then purchasing a similar make and model car using fraudulent cashier’s checks.
In those deals, he would use whatever phony name he could to make it appear his name was the same as on the title. Clevenger then was committing identity theft by using an assumed name.
“It took computer forensic people, it took diligence on behalf of the Woodbury Police to track the true identity of this person down, this criminal, and find him, search the home and then brought us the evidence so that we could charge him,” Orput said.
Clevenger remains on the run and has a warrant issued for his arrest. He is facing one count of felony theft by swindle in Washington County Court.
The Cadillac STS that he sold to the man in Woodbury was purchased from an Albertville woman with a fraudulent cashier’s check. He handed over the check in the amount of $13,500 and drove off in it.
When police searched his north Minneapolis home, they recovered other vehicle titles, license plates and a large supply of blank check paper.
“I suspect this gentleman may have crimes he’ll be facing in other counties as well,” said Orput.
For more information on ways to protect yourself when buying and selling a motor vehicle go to the National Motor Vehicle Title Information Service website.