Bell let car sit in shop for months

Owner of repair business placed lien on vehicle

July 28, 1999|By Gerard Shields and Ivan Penn | Gerard Shields and Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

A West Baltimore auto repair shop owner said City Council President and mayoral candidate Lawrence A. Bell III left his 1996 car sit unretrieved for months after being repaired for an apparent collision before the bank repossessed it.

Reuben Peas, owner of Peas and Slider Automotive in the 4100 block of Belvedere Ave., said Bell took the 1996 Ford Mustang to his shop during the summer of 1996 for repairs. Peas said the car looked as if it had been in an accident and that he repaired the headlight, front grill, bumper, radiator and hood at a cost of $3,000.

After Bell failed to return repeated phone calls asking him to pick up the vehicle, Peas placed a lien on the car to retrieve his money, he said.

"He didn't want his car," Peas said. "The bank came out and repossessed the car. The car was out here for six to eight months."

Reached Monday about the matter, Bell said: "I have no further comment."

Bell's car woes surfaced last week when The Sun learned that he has been sued three times for failing to pay personal debts. Two of the lawsuits were related to about $12,000 in fees he owed his condominium association at the Belvedere Condominiums on 1 E. Chase St.

A third case, filed last month, was for $2,855 owed to Provident Bank of Maryland after his 1996 green Ford Mustang convertible was reclaimed and sold, according to court records. Bell paid the condominium debts just before the scheduled trial dates in August and December, and he resolved the car debt two weeks ago, according to court records and his attorneys in the three cases.

Bell purchased the two-door Mustang in August 1996 and began to fall behind on the monthly $575 payment, records show. In November 1997, Provident Bank notified Bell that he had 10 days to get current on his debt or officials would repossess the $27,000 automobile.

On Jan. 6, 1998, the car was sold at auction for $13,600, according to court records. The bank wanted $2,855 more from the West Baltimore councilman to settle the debt and sued him to get it.

An insurance adjuster representing Bell looked at the car, Peas said. City police said they found no record of an accident report involving Bell. A review of traffic records also found no violations against Bell.

As City Council president, Bell earns $65,000 a year.

In an interview last week, Bell said the Mustang "had extensive damage."

"I was advised to allow the bank to take it back for resale and pay the balance," Bell said. "I think the most important factor is that it has been resolved."

Pub Date: 7/28/99

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