They thought they could trust him. They knew his father, he came recommended, they or their relatives had bought cars from him with no problems, and hadn’t he been in business for years?
Not only that, he got them the right car at a fair price. What’s not to like?
But now customers of car broker Scott Radtke of Clovis say they are out tens of thousands of dollars, and they’re not sure they’ll ever get justice, let alone get their money back.
“This debacle has aged me decades,” said Nancy Van Galder, 78, a retired Fresno teacher. She said Radtke owes her $31,000 from a vehicle she gave him to sell.
Never miss a local story.
Some victims ended up paying for their cars twice – the cash they gave Radtke that he allegedly kept, and the money they paid again to keep the car and not have it repossessed.
Radtke declined an interview request but said he wants to do right by the customers: “It’s my sincere intent that everybody be made whole.”
Radtke was arrested Oct. 2 after many customers reported they paid cash and drove off with their cars, only to have him fail to pay the dealerships he got the cars from and instead pocket the money, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles and court records. He also allegedly signed up customers for loans without their knowledge.
He subsequently bailed out of jail on $681,000 bond – but he might not be free for very long.
Radtke, who has been charged with 98 counts of swindling customers, lenders and car suppliers, left jail Oct. 5 after paying a $68,100 fee to a bail bond company.
But the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office said in a court filing there’s evidence Radtke paid the bail bondsman using potentially stolen money. Prosecutor Edith Treviso will ask a judge Nov. 9 to rule that Radtke should go back to jail because it’s illegal to use ill-gotten gains for bail.
The source of Radtke’s bail premium is in question after a Clovis police detective listened to a phone call Radtke made from jail in which he asked a California Motoring Co. employee to cash a check from a customer and use it to help pay his bond.
This debacle has aged me decades.
Nancy Van Galder, 78, a retired Fresno teacher
Radtke, 55, had been in business in Clovis for 14 years. But his business on Brookhaven Drive south of Jefferson Street is now closed, and the underlying reasons for his downfall remain a mystery.
Educational Employees Credit Union said in an email to The Bee that it “chose to to terminate its 12-year relationship with California Motoring Company in 2016” following an unspecified incident.
Last week, the DMV said the number of alleged victims is up to 25 car dealerships, 16 financial institutions and 66 customers who lost a total of $2.9 million. They include at least three older people, for which Radtke has been charged with elder financial abuse.
The Fresno County Public Defender, which represents defendants who can’t afford a lawyer on their own, has been appointed to represent him.
Nancy Van Galder
Nancy Van Galder, 77, is a retired Fresno Unified teacher who taught accounting at Duncan Polytechnical High School. Her husband Bob taught at Fresno State and was a football coach.
She and her husband have always used car brokers. They went to Radtke on the recommendation of their credit union three years ago and bought a 2014 Sienna.
In July, she and her husband bought a 2017 Honda CRV from Radtke. They traded in a 1998 Avalon and gave Radtke their Sienna to sell on consignment. She wrote a check for $33,000 to California Motoring Co. and signed the sales contract.
“I had no reason not to trust or believe him,” she said. “Up until the last minute, people weren’t aware he did bad things.”
The Honda CRV came from a car dealership near Santa Cruz, which called and said they had not been paid by Radtke, and threatened to repossess the car.
“I said ‘You need to deal with Scott, not me,’ ” she said. The dealership called several times trying to get her to sign a new sales contract, but Van Galder refused.
I’m irritated. We’re out the price of a car
Julie Wiley, a school principal in Watsonville
Meanwhile, “he still had the 2014 Sienna,” she said. It had low miles and was worth an estimated $31,000, she said.
Radtke told Van Galder in a text message he sold the Sienna on the wholesale market. When she asked him for the money, he wrote back, “I’ve never shorted anyone in my entire career!” She took a screen shot of the text message as evidence.
She went several times to see him in person about the Sienna. “We never got the money for that,” she said.
It has been nerve-wracking, she said: “I wake up at night thinking about it. I’m angry – for myself, my husband and everybody else.”
Meanwhile, she still has not received registration papers and license plates for the Honda.
“Evidently, the title of our car is still in limbo, because whoever is responsible for submitting the information to DMV has not done so,” she said.
Julie Wiley is a school principal in Watsonville. Her son lives in Clovis, and he purchased two cars from California Motoring Co. without any problems.
On Sept. 11, she wrote a check for $60,000 for a 2018 Audi Q7 SUV that was delivered to her home.
About two weeks later, she and her husband got a call from Bakersfield Audi claiming it owned the car and they owed the dealership money.
“We were completely confused,” she said. It turned out Bakersfield Audi had gotten a check from Radtke, but the check bounced.
Her husband called Radtke, who said he’d make good on the check the next day, a Friday. “The following Monday, he was arrested,” she said.
For a while, Wiley refused to even drive the car. “I’m a principal,” she said. What if she got pulled over and the car was reported stolen?
Finally, she and her husband drove to Bakersfield to get things straightened out with the dealership there. To their surprise, the dealership showed them a credit application made in their names with forged signatures. It had their phone numbers with the numbers altered: correct area code, incorrect prefix, correct last four digits.
They needed a car, so they wrote a check to the dealer. “Yes, we did pay twice,” Wiley said.
After he bailed out of jail, Radtke contacted her husband. “He said it’s all a big misunderstanding, someone at the DMV just has it out for him. He said, ‘I’m going to get your money back.’ ”
They’re in the process of finding a lawyer in Fresno to sue Radtke.
“I’m irritated,” she said. “We’re out the price of a car … Why wasn’t there a warning from somebody legitimate?”
Richard Bruce served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1965 to 1973 and has Purple Heart license plates on his 2016 GMC SLT Crew Cab truck bought from California Motoring.
The truck replaced his previous truck that had been totaled in a collision.
A young salesman at California Motoring Co. found the new truck at a car dealership in Los Angeles. The price was about $49,000. Bruce put up $10,000 and borrowed the rest from a credit union recommended by Radtke.
A month or so later, his insurance company issued him a check for the totaled truck. Bruce decided to use the money to pay off the car loan, so he called Radtke. “He said, ‘pay it to California Motoring’ and they’d do the paperwork,” Bruce said.
About two or three months later, the credit union asked Bruce why he stopped making payments. Radtke had cashed the check but never paid off the loan, Bruce said.
Furthermore, Bruce still had no license or registration for his new truck.
He said he trusted Radtke and knew his father. “I let it slide for too long,” he said.
He confronted Radtke and told him to either pay off the car loan or pay him. In July, Radtke gave him $1,500 cash, he said. He used it to make his car payment. Radtke later wrote Bruce a check for about $36,000, but “it bounced like a rubber ball,” Bruce said.
“We had a long talk,” he said. Because it seemed that Radtke didn’t have the cash to pay him, they came to an agreement: Radtke would make monthly payments to Bruce. But no further payments were made, he said.
Meanwhile, “I’m still paying on the truck, so I’m paying for it twice,” he said. He subsequently got his license plates.
After seeing the article in The Fresno Bee that Radtke has been arrested for fraud, he filed a fraud report with the DMV. Bruce said he isn’t getting a lawyer because the chances of being made whole are “zero.”