Big A's Auto Sales on Cherry Road in Rock Hill shut down. Its managers and several employees were arrested in what police called a far-reaching fraud investigation.
"People thought they were making a legitimate business transaction, but they were being duped," said Rock Hill police Detective Michael Chavis, who investigated the case for 10 months.
Chavis said Big A's Auto Sales was selling cars to customers that had title loans on them -- sometimes multiple liens in other people's names.
That meant customers who bought the cars couldn't get the title to it or register their cars, even if they'd already paid for them in full, according to the charges.
Investigators said customers had no idea they were buying cars that had liens on them.
Police said the dealership made money by selling a car, then having family members and friends take out a title loan in their own name and give the money from the loan back to the dealer, which had no intention of repaying it. Investigators said the title loan company could then repossess the car if the loan went into default and sell it again.
Police said Bernard and Mia Gaston were managers at Big A's Autos. They face numerous charges, including disposal of a property under lien and permitting the misuse of a certificate of title.
Police said the dealership could've made roughly $500,000 over a period of several years, largely through title loan applications on cars it had already sold.
"They were selling cars without a title," said Veronica Robinson, a one-time Big A's customer.
She contacted Action 9 reporter Don Griffin last month after buying a car from Big A's. She said the dealer never delivered the car to her and gave her the run-around. Action 9 helped her get her money back. She said she wasn't surprised about the criminal charges against the dealer.
"Hearing that the business is shut down, I pray to God that he won't be able to open another one and do this to someone else," she said.
Channel 9 spoke to Bernard Gaston at his home Wednesday. He agreed to an on-camera interview, then declined after speaking with his lawyer.
However, he told Channel 9 off-camera that he firmly believes he did nothing wrong and there are no victims here.
"I had no problem with what we were doing," Gaston said. "Nobody lost any money, and nobody lost a car. I do want my side of the story to come out. The truth."
During the lengthy investigation, the Department of Motor Vehicles and South Carolina Law Enforcement Division were also involved. They served 45 arrest warrants on a dozen different people involved with Big A's, many of them friends and family members of the Gastons.
Rock Hill police said they have found dozens of alleged victims. They believe there may be hundreds more, because it's not clear how long this had allegedly been going on.