When Rangel Slavenkov bought a damaged 1986 car at a D.C. police auction last year, he planned to repair the car, resell it and use the profit to open a small clothing shop, according to his lawyers. Instead, a couple of months later the Virginia resident found himself jailed, charged with grand theft and out several thousand dollars.

The 1986 Pontiac Trans Am Slavenkov and a partner bought at the April 1986 police auction apparently had been stolen from a car dealership, a fact Maryland police pointed out when Slavenkov tried to ship the car to Italy from the Port of Baltimore last July. Maryland police confiscated the car and Slavenkov spent the night in jail.

In a suit filed against the District yesterday, Slavenkov and his partner Michael Milanov alleged that although D.C. police failed to make a complete check of stolen car reports before issuing him title to the car, the city has refused for more than a year to return their purchase price of $10,000.

Slavenkov was "mortified" when Maryland police said the car was stolen, said Mitchell Rosenfeld, attorney for the two men along with lawyer Christopher M. Kerns. "He thought he had good title to the car and instead he found himself being accused of stealing a car and attempting to ship" it.

A city lawyer assigned to the case declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying that the case was in litigation and "all we've got at this point are his allegations."

Slavenkov's attorneys said that police have told them that the mixup appears to have occurred when police found the car abandoned and ran a check. Police did not find a report on it at the time, but they apparently did not make any additional checks before the April 26 auction, the lawyers said they were told. The city is entitled to sell abandoned property at auction after holding it for several months.

The criminal charges against Slavenkov eventually were dropped by Maryland authorities after he proved that D.C. police had issued a title to the car, his lawyers said. However, the car was sold by the insurance company that paid the stolen car claim, Motor Insurance Corp., which also is being sued.

In addition, the lawyers said Slavenkov had a buyer in Italy willing to pay $28,000 for the car, money that Slavenkov already had used to buy clothing to open a store in Rehoboth Beach, Del., and has since had to sell at low prices."