The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs announced extensive charges against several used-car dealerships that together comprise Queens-based Major World (Major World Español).
The company’s three dealerships and their owners are being charged with using deceptive and illegal practices to profit from low-income and immigrant consumers. DCA’s complaint document alleges numerous violations and wide-ranging consumer harm, and seeks more than $2 million in consumer restitution and fines (approximately $770,000 in restitution and $1.7 million in fines).
DCA is also seeking revocation of the company’s three DCA second-hand auto dealer licenses and the creation of a trust fund for any unidentified consumers who have been harmed. DCA also encourages any consumer who feels Major World lied to them about the price of their car to contact the agency by calling 311, or by filing a complaint at nyc.gov/dca.
DCA’s investigation to-date includes 30 consumers. DCA claims that Major World has been submitting false information on consumers’ credit applications, such as nature of employment, income levels, and monthly rent obligations, in addition to falsely inflating car values.
A Louisiana used-car dealer, who authorities say was also a large-scale narcotics dealer, has been sentenced to 23 years in prison.
Gross Williams had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute a kilogram or more of heroin and five kilograms or more of cocaine, as well as illegal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Williams was sentenced to 276 months imprisonment on the drug conspiracy and 120 months on the gun charge, to run concurrently. He was also fined $20,000 and placed on 10 years of supervised release following his term of imprisonment.
Williams operated a used-car business in Arabi that served as a cover and means of laundering his drug proceeds. Law enforcement officers seized over $425,000 in cash and a .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol from Williams’ bedroom during a search, and later discovered another $240,000 in cash in a safe deposit box that Williams’ wife, Kathleen, had opened in her name.
Through a detailed financial investigation, law enforcement was able to show that Williams deposited hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash into the bank accounts of his used-car business despite selling only a few midrange models each year. Kathleen Williams also admitted that she destroyed her husband’s “dope phone” the day that he was arrested. She was sentenced to four years of probation, with the initial nine months to be on house arrest.
As hard as the manufacturers work to make the cars harder to steal, criminal work just as hard to defeat those security tools.
And as much time as dealers spend trying to protect their businesses, criminals spend just as much time scheming to steal cars.
“People spend their lives trying to figure out how to rip you off,” said Joe Lescota.
Lescota currently workers as a trainer for the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association, but before entering the car business he worked as a police officer.
There are plenty of simple steps dealers can take to prevent theft.
One seems obvious, but is often a source of problems – lock the doors.
Dealers might think they have, but they should check to make sure when they leave at night. And that means checking all of them, especially the gate on SUVs and minivans.
Lescota said dealers should know every car they have in inventory and keep details on each unit, including pictures and detailed lists of equipment.
They should never leave a spot open on the lot after a sale, he said. This avoids any confusion that slows down the realization a theft occurred.
Dealers will have to spend money, but Lescota said the cost of higher insurance and lost sales when cars are stolen usually total more than the costs of prevention.
Lightening is one major area for investment in security. Lescota said this helps in both preventing thefts and catching the crooks if a crime does occur.
“I look at some of the video online of dealerships that suffer theft I think they could ID the thief with better lighting,” he said.
Of course, even well lit videos prove worthless if all they show is the top of a crook’s head. Lescota recommends using a professional to install surveillance equipment.
A Virginia dealer pleaded guilty to operating an odometer fraud scheme involving over 100 vehicles.
Paul Robinson pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and odometer tampering.
Robinson owned and operated Affordable Auto Body Repair, a repair shop and licensed salvage vehicle dealer located in Chesapeake, Va. Robinson purchased older vehicles, many of which had been involved in accidents, from an automobile auction specializing in vehicles from insurance companies.
On over 100 of these vehicles, Robinson altered or replaced the odometer to reflect a false, lower mileage. He then obtained fraudulent Virginia motor vehicle titles with mileage readings matching the false, lower mileage on the new odometer, and passed these falsified title documents on to the auto purchasers.
Robinson obtained many of these fraudulent titles from a former DMV Select clerk named Steven Bazemore. In many instances, Robinson asked Bazemore to return the documents used to procure the fraudulent titles rather than retaining the documents in the DMV file system. This made it more difficult for the DMV to detect the fraud.
Bazemore previously pleaded guilty to his role in the conspiracy. Bazemore was sentenced in September to one year of home confinement and ordered to pay restitution to the ultimate purchasers of the vehicles.
Robinson’s sentencing is scheduled for June 8.
The owners of a buy-here, pay-here operation in Louisiana recently pleaded guilty to laundering money for drug dealers.William Paul Boyter, Michael Paul Boyter and Anthony Reuben Riley, all of Shreveport,...