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Valley car salesman sentenced to prison in missing car title cases

Posted: 5:54 PM, Nov 12, 2018
Updated: 2018-11-13 00:54:32Z

A Valley car salesman is sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to fraud and theft charges.

Samuel Howie, 54, was accused of running a car sales scheme in which he would sell cars to consumers for which he could not produce a title or give a refund.

In all, prosecutors said he took nearly $350,000 from approximately 20 people.

We met two of Howie's customers in 2017.

RELATED STORY: Valley man can't get car title or refund  

Chandra Chodogam let me know he paid $6100 to Howie for a Ford Fiesta in 2016. But after several weeks of trying to get the title, Chodogam says he asked for a refund.

Instead, he says he got a bad check written for a partial amount.

We tracked Howie down at his business. At first, he denied owing Chodogam but eventually admitted it. He also promised us, that he would pay him back in two weeks.

That did not happen.

We also spoke to Peter, whose last name we agreed not to use. He says Howie sold him a VW Jetta with no title.

RELATED STORY: Car salesman indicted on fraud, theft charges¬†  

"It was excuse, after excuse, after excuse," he says.

Eventually, he found out the real owner of the car had reported it stolen.

"That night we met and I gave him the car back," Peter says.  

He is still waiting for a $9400 refund from Howie.

A grand jury indicted him in January 2017.

On Friday, he pleaded guilty to several counts of theft and fraud. 

At his sentencing hearing on Friday Howie said he behavior stems from a gambling problem.

 "The day I pulled into a casino and thought I could supplement my income it just became an addiction," he explained to the judge.

From there he says things just snowballed.

"Some of the people I don't even know who they are, to be honest with you. I mean I'm just gonna pay them back," he said.

In addition to the prison sentence, Judge Susanna Pineda ordered restitution for victims and noted that Howie being on probation while committing the crimes also played a role in his sentencing. 

"I cannot downplay the fact that you were on probation for a very similar type offense, "the judge explained.