MIDDLETON (CBS) — A local car dealer preyed on a recently widowed woman and her two young children by stealing the gleaming Mercedes her late husband left to help support his family.
The I-Team tracked down the man behind this heartless swindle to a jail cell and now police believe the car dealer may have ripped off other people as well.
“It’s about my husband, sticking up for my husband and not letting this guy get away with taking everything (my husband) worked hard for his children.”
Those are the words of Stacey Chicoine, whose husband Joe was diagnosed with brain cancer in June of 2008.
LEFT CAR FOR FAMILY
Joe could not get life insurance after his diagnosis, but he took some solace in the fact that when he was gone, his wife Stacey could sell his top-of-the-line Mercedes to help care for their kids.
Joe died when his twins were just six months old and that’s when Stacey Chicoine turned to car salesman Daniel Wright, president of the Sterling Motor Group in Danvers, for help.
Stacey brought Joe’s Mercedes to Sterling Motors and met with Wright, who agreed to pay her $53,000 when the car was sold.
“When Daniel said he could help, he said ‘I need Joe’s death certificate and the title to the car,’” Stacey said.
Stacey handed over the documents along with the car and trusted Wright to make good on the deal.
Months later, Stacey says Wright told her the car had disappeared from the lot and he didn’t know what happened to it.
But the I-Team found out the Chicoine’s Mercedes didn’t just vanish. Dan Wright sold it.
The I-Team obtained a copy of the title used in the illegal sale and discovered it was forged back in May.
On it is Joe Chicoine’s signature, dated May 15, 2010, which was eight months after he died.
WRIGHT’S LEGAL TROUBLES
The I-Team’s investigation also found that Wright has been accused of questionable car deals before and admitted fault in one case in civil court.
Wright’s waterfront condo in Swampscott is in foreclosure and the lot at what used to be Sterling Motors is empty and the business is closed down.
When the I-Team tried to find Wright to speak with him, the trail led to a jail in Essex County, where he was serving time for non-payment of child support. According to the Department of Revenue, Wright owes almost $40,000 in back payments and interest.
“He’s a sad soul,” Stacey said. “I feel bad for him. He’s got to live with what he’s done.”
TRACKED DOWN THE CAR
Meanwhile, the I-Team tracked down Joe’s Mercedes on the North Shore. A man named Bernard Platt had bought it at Sterling Motors from Wright.
Platt said he had no idea Stacey had been swindled or that the car was stolen. “My immediate reaction was we just felt awful,” Platt said.
Platt paid Wright $61,500 for the Mercedes. He said Wright told him about Stacey’s situation and made him feel that not only was he buying a beautiful car, but he was also helping a family in need.
“He preys on your emotional side,” Platt said. “Obviously it’s a beautiful car but by the other token, it was the right thing for Stacey.”
According to Platt, Wright described himself as “a standup guy and his business is a standup business.”
“To hear this woman had been defrauded out of the car after we had paid for the car, we feel awful about it,” he said.
NOT JUST A CAR
To Stacey, the Mercedes wasn’t just any car.
“This was (Joe’s) hard earned money gone,” she said. “Something he was proud of. It was extra hard to get rid of it because it was a piece of him.”
Wright “stole from two innocent kids who their father provided awesomely for,” Stacey said.
When Stacey told police about what Wright had done, they did nothing. Now both Danvers and State Police are investigating and the I-Team has learned there are even more alleged victims of Wright.
The I-Team requested an interview with Wright but he refused to talk.
Platt says he hasn’t driven the Mercedes since he found out where it came from. What will become of the Mercedes has yet to be resolved.