What a Shame: Woman’s Toyota goes ‘missing’ after Jeep dealership promises to return it for her

BROOKLYN — Estela Cruz wishes she’d never stopped to check out the cars at the Brooklyn Jeep dealership on Flatbush Avenue. She liked the 2018 Jeep Compass and spoke with the salesman and the sales manager about leasing it. There was just one problem: she was driving a 2015 Toyota RAV4. Its lease was up and she needed to turn it in to a Toyota dealer. She says the sales manager told her, “as a courtesy, he would actually return the Toyota to Toyota."

So she left theRAV4 there and drove off in the new Jeep Compass.

Six weeks later, Cruz got a call from Toyota Financial Services, asking “Where is your car? Your lease has expired and we haven’t heard from you.”

She called the Jeep dealership and says manager Daniel Delnegro told her the RAV4 “was sent to Toyota.”  But, she says, that wasn’t true. I later confronted the sales manager as he walked out the front door.

“She brought her Toyota in here and you were going to turn it in," I said.

“Not me, no,” he said. "The salesperson was.”

“What happened to it? It was never brought to Toyota?” I asked.

Delnegro answered, “no comment."

Cruz says after several weeks of calling, she finally heard from the dealership’s owner, Zachary Schweibel.

“He apologized and said 'the problem was someone hit the car.'"

In fact, herRAV4 had been involved in a 5-car pile up on the Staten Island Expressway, which occurred 20 days after it was supposed to have been returned to Toyota.

The dealership's CFO, Rick Engel ,says an employee was bringing the car to a Toyota dealer when “our driver was rear ended by another car.”

Engel would not say what dealer the employee was taking it to, how many miles had theRAV4 been driven since she left it at the dealership, why it was kept for 20 days, and why Cruz wasn’t told about the accident when it occurred. What a Shame!

The video and pictures taken after the accident show theRAV4 was so badly damaged it was declared a total loss. In the meantime, Cruz continued getting calls from Toyota Financial Services demanding the car be returned.

"To pay off that car is over $16,000 of which I do not have," she said.

She says Schweibel told her “he would take care of it.”

However, he insisted the insurer of the driver who caused the 5-car accident was responsible for paying, not him . He filed a claim. That led to a long delay and Cruz says she hadn’t heard from him in weeks.

She says that’s when “I called PIX11 in search of Arnold Diaz. You get the job done.”

Fortunately, that’s what we were able to do for her. After we contacted Schweibel and Engel and spoke with Delnegro, Cruz says “I received phone calls from Jeep. Everything has been settled and I am no longer on the hook for $6 grand. I don’t think any of that would have been resolved without PIX11.”

If you’ve got a story for us, send an email to whatashame@pix11.com.