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'Good deal' on SUV leads to arrest

2012-10-11 12:02

ONE MISTAKE TO COST MILLIONS: Dennis Ellmer, president of Priority Chevrolet, apologised to Danny Sawyer after salesman at a dealership accused him of stealing.


2012 Chevrolet Lumina sedan, Ute

Imagine getting a good deal on a car that you want. Now imagine getting arrested and being thrown into jail because the dealership accused you of stealing. A Virginia man had this exact experience.

The Daily Mail reported that when Danny Sawyer, 40, went to a Chevrolet dealership to buy a new SUV, a fault by the salesman saw him receive a discount of about R48 800 on the actual price. The dealership later told Sawyer to sign a new contract for the correct amount, but after he refused a Chevrolet employee called the police and had him arrested for theft.


Dennis Ellmer, president of Priority Chevrolet, had issued apologies to Sawyer, who spent four hours behind bars, saying he never should have been incarcerated.

Ellmer also offered to let Sawyer have the SUV at the lower price, but the 40-year-old said it was too late for that, according to the Virginian-Pilot.

Sawyer filed two lawsuits seeking a total of an equivalent of about R19-million, plus attorney fees, against the Chesapeake dealership, accusing the business of malicious prosecution, slander, defamation and abuse of process.

According to the filings, Sawyer originally bought a black Chevrolet Traverse on May 7, 2012, after trading in his 2008 Saturn Vue, but had a change of heart and decided to exchange the vehicle for a blue model the following day.

Sales manager Wib Davenport approved the substitution allegedly without mentioning the blue Traverse will cost an additional R48 800 – a claim that has been disputed by the dealership. 

In the end, Sawyer signed a final contract for a little over R296 000 while the actual asking price of the vehicle was listed as just above R340 000.


A week later, Sawyer returned from a trip to find dozens of voicemail messages from the dealership informing him they had made a mistake and asked him to come in and sign a new contract for the higher price.

Sawyer’s lawsuits claim the buyer refused, although the dealership insists he orally agreed to pay the difference, but then failed to show up to sign the papers, according to The Daily Mail.

On June 15, 2012, Sawyer was arrested by three police officers in his front yard after a manager at the dealership accused him of stealing the SUV.

Four hours later, Sawyer was released on bail. And in August 2012, the Commonwealth of Virginia dropped all charges against him after finding insufficient evidence to pursue the case.

In September 2012, Ellmer apologised to the aggrieved customer, saying his staff made a mistake by going to the police.

Ellmer said: “This shouldn't have happened”

Rebecca Colaw, Sawyer's attorney, said she appreciated that Ellmer wa taking responsibility for what had happened, but said that “sorry” was just not enough.

Read more on:    chevrolet  |  lawsuits  |  suv  |  jail

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