My name is ***** ***** I'd be happy to answer your questions today. I'm sorry to hear that this happened.
There is unfortunately no right to place a lien without a written agreement where you reserve that right. However, if the agreement was that the car would belong to you, then you can sue for breach of contract
if he takes it. You could either seek the value of the car (which means he might prefer to give it back rather than giving you cash), or you can ask a judge to order him to sign the title over to you, based on your agreement. The cash is easier for most people, but I understand if you'd rather have the car.
The problem is, with his name on it, if you refuse to let him take the car, you run the risk that he will report it stolen, which will cause more problems for you.
You do need to be able to establish that the $12,500 you gave him was not a gift. If you handed over the cash at the dealership, that could help, depending on what was said. Any old text messages or emails discussing the situation can also help.
Another option is to have a local attorney send him a demand letter, insisting that he sign the title to avoid a lawsuit, and see if that convinces him to do the right thing.
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