New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo filed a lawsuit against Poughkeepsie Chevrolet Cadillac Inc., and its former owner Raymond M. Wilkinson III this week on numerous counts of fraud.
Court documents allege the dealership violated New York’s vehicle and traffic law when it failed to inform buyers on several occasions that the used cars being purchased were previously rental vehicles .
Among the litany of charges, the attorney general accuses also the auto dealer of doctoring the purchase agreements it handed over to the office, marking the cars as rentals after the transactions were completed. The company is also alleged to have forged customers’ signatures, withheld extended warranties, and only partially filled out many of the vehicles’ certificates of sales leaving out the car’s previous owner.
The allegations date back to February 2007.
The lawsuit seeks restitution for consumers who were deceived into purchasing a car without knowing it was previously a rental vehicle, penalties, and costs. Dutchess County Supreme Court Acting Justice Thomas J. Dolan has ordered Wilkinson to post a $500,000 bond to pay for any monetary award once the suit is resolved.
“Mr. Wilkinson has until today to post bond and he’s indicated that he will,” said Lee Park, spokesman for the attorney general’s office.
Since 1999 Poughkeepsie Chevrolet had been a fixture on the B.E. 100s Auto Dealers list. The company ranked no. 90 this year with $24.5 million in revenue.
In August, a consumer frauds representative from the attorney general’s office began reviewing the dealership’s original copies of its purchase agreements, dealer invoices, and other documents for all used cars sold in 2007 to determine if Poughkeepsie Chevrolet violated state law.
“This business failed to provide legally required notifications to its customers, thereby withholding important vehicle information that would influence the decision of whether or not to purchase a particular car,” said Cuomo. “Our lawsuit exposes the myth that this dealership was being truthful with consumers. As with any business that defrauds consumers, we will hold responsible those who are engaged.”
A dozen customers say they were bilked by Wilkinson.
Certain uses of vehicles, including use as a rental vehicle, can have a negative impact on the value of a car, leading buyers to either avoid the purchase or pay significantly less than what would otherwise be the fair market value. Several consumers contacted by the attorney general’s office indicated that they would not have purchased the cars at the price they paid had they known they were previously used as rental vehicles.
The once thriving auto dealer was brought to its knees in October as the credit crunch depressed sales. That month Wilkinson told the Poughkeepsie Journal that sales were way down, amounting to less than 30 vehicles a month, a far cry from the more than 100 vehicles a month a year and a half ago. Low sales were attributed to the higher cost of loans and raised standards to qualify for loans.
“I’m in negotiations [to sell the dealership] and I should be closing pretty soon,” Wilkinson told the Journal. “It’s not