THE STATE OF TEXAS
COUNTY OF HARRIS
AFFIDAVIT OF BARNEY DONALSON
BEFORE ME, the undersigned authority, on this day personally appeared BARNEY DONALSON, known by me to be the person hereinafter subscribed and who, upon oath, deposed as follows:
“I am over the age of 18, of sound mind, capable of making this affidavit, and personally acquainted with the facts herein.
“I am a minister with New Beginnings Fellowship Church and operate New Beginnings Houston, a separate ministry that operates subsidized boarding houses for low income individuals. I am also the owner of Legal Express Texas, a company that provides “hotshot” delivery, process service, document location and retrieval, and other support services to attorneys, courts, and government officials.
“On Monday, I began having transmission issues with my truck. I had it looked over by a mechanic, who found not only that the transmission was about to go, but that the engine has head gasket issues. Given that my truck had high mileage and repair costs would exceed $3, 000, I decided to find a new truck
“A friend of mine has a black F150 Ford. I wanted the exact same thing. I spent hours on the internet searching for one in good condition at an acceptable price (below $10K). I found two that I liked. When I went to look at the first one, it had mechanical issues that I didn’t want to deal with.
“Because the second dealer “Drive With Pride” was a little far, before I made the trip I first called to verify that the truck was still available. It was. On May 6th, 2015, a mechanic friend, Tom Grega, and I went to the second dealer. We were assisted by a sales agent who identified himself as John Russ.
“In conversations with Mr. Russ, I advised that I had no credit score at all – neither good nor bad -- because I almost never borrow money. I am the sole owner of two businesses with cash flows of about $6000 a month, and normally pay cash for every purchase. I told Mr. Russ that at this time I needed to finance a truck because most of my resources are tied up with construction project on a future rental property. I also told him that it was my intention to pay the financed amount much earlier than would be required – as soon as I had the cash available.
“Mr. Russ asked me how much I could put down. I said I had $600. He went to another office, then came back and said I would need at least $1000 down. I told him I could go collect rent from a tenant or sell my truck and come back the next day. He advised that he would be off on Thursday, but could finish it up on Friday.
“I looked the truck over and test drove it. It was in good condition and exactly what I wanted. Tom also checked it over very carefully, and did not note any mechanical problems. In the parking lot, standing next to the truck, I told Mr. Russ I wanted the truck. He said he would get the paperwork started and take care of me when he got back on Friday.
“The following day, May 7th, Mr. Russ sent me a text that I needed to call a man named “Barry” at their finance company to answer some questions. I called the man and answered his questions. I also sent texts to Mr. Russ indicating that I was at CarMax to see how much they would pay me for my truck. He replied that Drive With Pride would match any CarMax offer. I later advised that CarMax had offered $1200, and that Texas Direct Auto offered me $1500. Mr. Russ didn’t offer to match Texas Direct Auto’s price; rather, his reply indicated he didn’t think Texas Direct would give me that much unless I bought a vehicle from them. Thus, I decided to sell my truck to Texas Direct. I sent Mr. Russ a text that I would be there Friday afternoon, and he replied “Yes, sir.”
“When I returned on Friday, May 8th, Mr. Russ was not available. After about a five minute wait, I was helped by another salesman whose name I am not sure of – it may have been Jose or Joe. He wanted me to go with him to look at vehicles. I told him I had already picked out a truck and had spoke with their finance company. He told me the truck I was buying had already been sold and again offered to show me others.
“In subsequent conversations with a man I understood to be in charge of the place, I was basically told the truck was sold, nothing could be done, and that they don’t hold vehicles without a deposit. However, at no time in my conversations with Mr. Russ did he ever indicate that a deposit was necessary to hold the truck from being sold to another buyer. If he had so advised, I would have paid a deposit. When I left the Drive With Pride on Wednesday evening, I understood that Mr. Russ was taking care of financing paperwork and that I was to return on Friday with $1, 000 down to finish the deal. Tom Grega, who was also a party to the entire conversation between Mr. Russ and I, also had the same understanding.
“I became very angry. The situation had the appearance of the type of “bait and switch” scheme that is prohibited by the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. I called 911 and asked for a police officer to be dispatched to the location so I could make a report. While waiting for the police, another salesman spoke to me, and then I again spoke to the man I understood to be in charge. He apologized for the situation and said he would see if he could find another black F150. He said he would call me by noon the following day.”
“I then called the police again to explain what had happened, and how it was resolved. The officer cancelled the service call.
“Afterwards, I walked down the service road of the Southwest Freeway, stopping at every car dealership looking for a black F-150. AutoMall 59 did not have one. Shabana Motors did not have one. Sterling McCall had brand new ones, but no used black F-150s. Carmax had a dark blue one that I almost purchased, but didn’t because I realized in the long run I would not have been happy with it because I wanted black. At DriveTime, however, I found a black F-150 similar to the one I was going to buy from Drive With Pride – albeit one costing almost twice as much. At that point I was desperate and without any transportation. I gave them $800 to hold the truck.”
“Because I was without transportation, on the morning of May 9th I set out on foot walking. It was my intention to first stop by Drive With Pride to see if man in charge had found anything, and if not, then to continue on to DriveTime to complete the purchase of the truck I had paid to hold. This was a very long walk, taking several hours.
“It was approximately 12:45 p.m. when I arrived at Drive With Pride. The manager seemed surprised to see me. He said the truck was now available. I asked if the buyer brought it back. He said he didn’t remember what happened. A moment later, Mr. Russ came over claiming he’d sent me a text earlier in the morning telling me the truck was again available. I checked my phone. I had not received any texts from him that day.
“From approximately 12:45 pm to 5:40 p.m., Mr. Russ and a finance officer processed paperwork. Because they wouldn’t accept the check that Direct Auto gave me for my truck, Mr. Russ drove me to a nearby Chase Bank so I could withdraw some cash. He also drove me to my insurance company so I could transfer insurance to the truck I was buying.
“The car lot was getting ready to close when I was finally given the key. I noted that several customization features -- clearly shown in the pictures posted on the car dealer’s website -- that made me want to purchase that particular F-150 (e.g., rear footstep, tool box, extra fuel tank, pump) – had been removed from the truck. However, by that point I was so exhausted I didn’t have the energy to make an issue of it. I just wanted to go home. At 5:40 p.m., I slowly drove the truck out of the parking lot. A block away, when I turned onto the freeway feeder, I found it had very little power. As soon as I got it up to about 30 miles an hour, it started stuttering and a warning chime sounded with a low fuel message. I pulled over into a gas station and purchased some gas. When I restarted the truck, the dash showed “TransFault” with the “O/D Off” light flashing. At 5:46 p.m., I sent Mr. Russ a picture of the dash and told him what was going on. At 5:58 p.m. he replied, ‘Drive it over the weekend and let me know on Monday.’
“It took me a long time to get back to my neighborhood because the truck would not go more than 25 to 30 miles an hour, and every time I had to stop at a traffic light it was hard to get it going again. I stopped at the AutoZone at West Bellfort and Chimney Rock, and asked the clerk to use their diagnostic tool to tell me what was wrong. When he plugged up, the device was unable to communicate with the truck’s computer.
“On the morning of May 11, 2015, the truck was still having issues. I drove it very slowly to the Sterling McCall Ford dealorship, where a mechanic checked the truck. He checked all the fluids and visually inspected the truck, finding nothing other than a couple of loose wires and missing fuses which most likely would not cause the acceleration problem. He also found that the OBD outlet was disabled, which prevented him from connecting a computer to the truck to diagnose the problem. It was his opinion that the truck’s computer was being manipulated by an aftermarket GPS disabler device.
“I decided to return the truck. However, as I was driving back to Drive With Pride, the truck began moving even slower. I barely managed to get it into the parking lot of a shopping strip before it would not move at all. I then called a friend to come pick me up. She drove me to Drive With Pride, where I informed them of the location of the truck.”
“In witness whereof, I have set my hand.”
SWORN TO AND SUBSCRIBED BEFORE ME, a Notary Public in and for the State of Texas, on this the 12th day of May 2015, to certify which witness my hand and official seal of office.