A couple of years ago, I ran across an eBay auction for a Leica M3 and a whole host of lenses. It was a package that was worth well over $4,000, but featured a “BUY IT NOW” price of only $100. I’ve fallen for the whole “It’s too good to be true” thing before, but figured there was no harm in sending an email and inquiring. Hours later, I found myself on the phone with an elderly woman in San Francisco.

Her husband had recently passed. He was a beat reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle for over 30 years and this Leica kit was his pride and joy. The eBay auction was her first attempt at an online transaction and she didn’t really realize what she was doing. Her local camera store had given her a general idea of value, but told her she would probably do best by putting it all on Ebay. She did so figuring that $100 was a good starting point.

I spent some time with her on the phone, helped her cancel her original auction, and setup a new no-reserve auction with a starting bid of $100. Over the next week, I watched the auction and was pretty pleased with my good deed after it closed for a little over $5000. A week later and I got another call from the woman. The winner of the auction never paid up and welched on his bid. She was frustrated and was looking for advice.

I told her that such circumstances were actually pretty rare on eBay and that she should just re-list the auction and see how it plays out. Instead, she offered me the lot for $1500 – explaining that she really wanted me to have it. After making sure she understood the proportion of the value she was offering me, I sent her a check.

When the kit showed up, I was awed by what I saw. Vintage Leica gear is so tactile… so precise… so wonderfully crafted. I twisted the 50mm summicron on the M3 body and began to play with my new toy. Sliding the wind lever was like cocking a high-end firearm. Hitting the shutter button felt like dry firing the same. I was simply amazed.

Even so and after shooting a couple of rolls of film, I realized that film isn’t practical for me. I formulated a plan.

I’d keep the acquired lenses to use on my digital M8 and sell the M3 on Ebay. Afterwards, I’d send the money made to my new friend in San Francisco. It was the right thing to do and I was set on it. So, in March of 2011 the camera sold for $821 to a gentleman in Mexico. On the same day I shipped off the camera, I mailed a check to the original owner’s wife. A good deed was done and I felt pretty damned good about it. Then, I was robbed.

The eBay buyer claimed he never got the camera and wanted a refund. ebay sided with him. Although I had bought delivery confirmation through USPS, the Mexican mail system doesn’t support it. So while I could prove the camera made it to customs, I couldn’t prove that the camera made it to the address assigned. As a result, eBay took $821 from my PayPal account and sent it back to the buyer.

Shit happens. I realize that… But something didn’t feel right about this transaction and I had this faint feeling that I was being taken advantage of. I just couldn’t let go of it, so I submitted the camera and it’s serial number to the Leica Stolen Regitry and began to search the serial number on Google every chance I got. Month-after-month, my search came back empty. Eventually, I gave up.

Last week, however, I stumbled upon a roll of film that I shot with the M3 before I sold it. On a whim, I had it developed and absolutely fell in love with the texture and look of film. It sparked the memory of my old M3 and the transaction that went so horribly wrong. Half-mindedly, I once again google searched the serial number of my old M3.

This popped up:

Cámara Leica M3 (Otras Marcas) en Preciolandia México a MXN 11099 (18cy12)

As well as this:

Cámara Leica M3 – $ 11,099.00 en MercadoLibre

A little more sleuthing proved that this camera was listed by a man named Luis Javier Jiménez Manzo – the same man that I sold my M3 to on eBay. And, of course, the serial numbers matched. I was astonished. After almost a year of searching, I had found proof that my M3 was stolen.

Now what?

I’ve contacted both eBay and PayPal. Both are doing investigations. I’ve also contacted both the Guadalajara Police Department as well as a couple of pals I have in the man’s area. I’ve also tried contacting Luis Javier Jiménez Manzo through both email and eBay. So far, I’ve had no response from him. My plan is to place as much pressure on him as I possibly can until I get either my money or my camera back.

And, of course, I will keep you folks updated. This one might get colorful.

For Google’s sake, here is all of the contact information I have for Luis:

Luis Javier Jiménez Manzo
Lope de Vega 881
Jardines del Bosque
Guadalajara, Jalisco 44520

Email: gladiador98@yahoo.com

eBay name: ljjpp

Phone Number: 0115213331001910

UPDATE: I actually got ahold of Luis on the phone this morning. He said this whole thing is a big misunderstanding, but as of yet, I have no camera and no money.