Buyer Beware: Car Bought at Police Auction Lands Driver in Jail

Police acknowledge crafty smugglers could slip drugs by screenings

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    NEWSLETTERS

    For sale: Mercury Grand Marquis with plush seats, electric windows, 21 bags of heroin ... doh!

    A seized car bought at a police auction has landed the new driver in jail on drug charges, according to the driver.

    Last September, Nancy Manchaca bought her 22-year-old son, Manuel Coronado, a car at a police auction so that he could get to and from class.

    Car Bought at Auction Lands Man in Jail

    [DFW] Car Bought at Auction Lands Man in Jail
    A Fort Worth mother claims a car she bought her son at police auction landed her son in jail. (Published Monday, Jan 25, 2010)

    "He's a college student. So, you know, I help him out as much as I can, help him get a car so that he can go to school," said Manchaca.

    Coronado was driving the car on Friday when he had a blowout and crashed into a truck along state Highway 121.  The collison ruptured the dashboard and, much to Coronado's surprise, out popped 21 individually-wrapped bags of heroin.

    When officers arrived at the scene of the crash, Coronado was arrested on a charge of drug possession with the intent to distribute.  He was later released after his mother posted a $20,000 bail.

    "As soon as they arrested me, they just threw me right in the car and I had, after that, no say so," said Coronado.

    Coronado said he had no idea there were drugs in the car and believes whoever owned the vehicle before it was seized had stored the drugs in the dashboard.

    A likely story that the Fort Worth police agree is plausible. Officials with the department said they visually inspect every seized car before the cars go to auction, but acknowledge that if the drugs are hidden well enough they could go undiscovered.

    "We didn't think about searching the car since we bought it at the police impound," said Manchaca.

    Aside from Manchaca and Coronado, the situation leaves many wondering why police didn't further search the seized car with drug-sniffing dogs before releasing it to the auction and the general public. So far, officials have released no further statement regarding the car or the procedure for insuring the safety of the cars sold at auction.

    Police said Coronado's case is under investigation and the charges may be dropped. At this time, Coronado is unable to get his car out of the auto pound since it is now part of a narcotics investigation.

    NBCDFW's Ellen Goldberg contributed to this report.