It should have been a happy time for a Bucks County family. Their teenage son was about to enter the family business, so they bought him the car of his dreams!
But now the vehicle is in pieces, the family is out big bucks, and the cops are sniffing around.
FOX 29 Investigates is working to find out what went so wrong, Jeff Cole reports.
It's a sporty car, a two-door Nissan 350Z. Perfect, thought Suzi Baskin, for her 17-year-old, about to join his dad in the family plumbing business.
"This is the car he wanted," Cole said.
"That's the car he wanted," Baskin said.
"That he really loved?" Cole asked.
"He did," Baskin said.
"And so you guys bought it for him?" Cole asked.
"We did," Baskin said.
The Baskins took out a $12,000 loan and gave the car to their son, Brigham, with the understanding that he'd pay the note – a great opportunity for a young man to take on a little responsibility.
But Baskin says that ended when Brigham met Collins Boateng of Vanku Autosports, a guy who didn't want to answer questions.
"Where's the car?" Cole asked.
"I can even call the cops for a disturbance," Boateng said.
"You can call the cops," Cole said.
"Get the f--- out of here. You can leave," said Boateng's associate.
"We will. But public place here. You don't own this, right?" Cole asked. "You don't own the place."
"It doesn't matter. Hey, I'm not worried about it," Boateng said.
Baskin says the trouble started when the Nissan needed engine work and her son found Boateng and Vanku on Facebook, where video is posted of cars being race, worked on and bold artwork of the Vanku name can be found.
The 350Z was towed to Vanku's rented garage in Warminster, Bucks County, in last August.
After Brigham and Boateng agreed the engine would be repaired and enhanced, the family wrote two checks in August and September to Vanku for a total of$6,400.
But as September stretched into October, Baskin says she began calling Boateng, who assured her the car would be repaired in two weeks.
"At some point do you think I've got some trouble here?" Cole asked.
"Most definitely. Yea, you know, I didn't want it to go that way. But, yeah, in my heart I felt something wasn't going to go right," Baskin said.
Finally, in February, Suzi Baskin had enough. She sent a letter certified mail to Vanku in Warminster demanding the car and the $6,400 be paid back, every last cent. What did she get back? The envelope, unopened. The business was closed. Vanku had vanished, Cole reported.
Fearing her son's car had been stolen, she called police and eventually drove to the garage, where she found the Nissan in terrible shape.
Parts had been dumped on the front seat. A window was left open to the elements and – get this – a cat was living inside with its newborn kittens.
Then, she looked under the hood.
"Pull the hood up, no engine?" Cole asked.
"Right," Baskin said.
"What did you think?" Cole asked.
"Disbelief, that's all. I don't know what else to say," Baskin told us. "I just, I can't believe somebody would do that to somebody."
That's right. The engine was missing, crudely cut out with a saw, according to a mechanic at the shop where the car now sits.
So, where's Collins Boateng? We tracked him to the back side of a North Philadelphia warehouse to press for answers.
"She's looking for her engine. She's lookin', she's got a 350Z, you know?" Cole said.
"Well, this is B-Spec (Autosports), so it doesn't…" Boateng began.
"No, no, it's you. She knows you," Cole said. "Yeah, she talked to you."
"OK, it doesn't matter if she know me," Boateng said.
Cole went on to say, "She thinks that maybe you cut it out or something and it's gone."
"No, the engine hasn't been junked, and nobody sold the engine," Boateng said.
He claims the engine is at another shop, but he wouldn't tell us the name or number of the shop. He says Baskin has it.
But the mother tells us that when she called the number Boateng gave her, the person on the other end said he wouldn't say or do anything without Boateng's approval. She says she's trying to find the number she called for that quick conversation.
Boateng accused of us of not having all the facts.
"We don't have the full details, but you don't want to give me the full details?" Cole asked.
"Hey, you know why?" Boateng asked. "Because you're a middle man, and I don't deal with anybody else."
Cole later said, "I'm simply trying to ask you what happened for a woman who paid you $6,400, you left the business, you left the car open, you took the engine out," Cole said. "Right? I've got the picture."
"Ahh, OK, since you know everything, why don't you just write off of that," Boateng said.
"OK, well, why don't you tell me what happened?" Cole followed-up.
"I don't have to tell you anything, what happened," Boateng said.
We do know this: After initially writing a report stating the case was a "civil matter," Baskin says Warminster police now have a renewed interest, asking her for copies of checks and bank information.
FOX 29 Investigates has learned Philadelphia police, working with Warminster, have been looking for the 30-year-old.
"Philly cops stop by yet?" Cole asked. "Have they come to see you yet?"
"It doesn't matter," Boateng said.
"They're interested in you," Cole told him.
"Great, I hope everybody's interested in me," Boateng said.
There's more. A check with Philadelphia's Department of Licenses and Inspections finds no record of a required business privilege license for their 610 East Erie Avenue location.
Another man said he's the owner, Boateng works for him, and he wanted us to leave: "He's my employee, so you, my friend, can get the f--- out of here and get off the property."
So, we began to leave, but not before pressing Boateng again about the money and witnessing his obscene response.
"And the $6,400, she going to get that back?" Cole asked.
"Do whatever you want to do," Boateng said. "And you can suck my d--- if you want!"
Boateng argues the car was Suzi Baskin's responsibility once he left it in the Warminster lot. Baskin says he never told her he'd left it. She believes he's committed a crime and wants him arrested, Cole reported.