Can I be charged with fraud for failing to turn over a car that I stopped paying the loan on?

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Can I be charged with fraud for failing to turn over a car that I stopped paying the loan on?

I stopped paying the loan on a car because of some hard times I was going through.I gave the car to my girlfriend and the time to drive and she periodically will give me money for it. The bank has tried to repo the car many times in the last year but I will not tell them where it is. I got a phone call from someone who said the were investigating me for fraud. Is it possible I could be charged with fraud for this? Do I have to give the car back? Could I settle the debt and keep the car? How does this work?

Asked on August 17, 2011 Michigan

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Yes, you could be charged with fraud--or even theft.

If you believe that the bank is mistaken and you have a right to keep the car, the way to deal with that is by challenging them in court. However, if you think that they may have the right to the car and you are hiding or keeping it from them, that is a form a theft--you are taking property that belongs to the bank.

You have to give the car back if you are not paying on the loan--period. It doesn't matter why you have not been doing so (hard times or not)--the bank is entitled to their money or the car.

If you can get the bank to agree to settle the debt--to accept lower payments, a smaller amount, etc.--and let you keep the car, that would be legal...but the bank *must* agree. You can't force them to settle the debt and let you keep the car; it is up to them.


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