Articles Posted in Auto Fraud

Buying a used car can be an exciting experience, but it comes with risks, particularly when it involves fraud. Fortunately, Illinois has robust consumer protection laws, and recent court decisions shed light on how these laws are applied in cases of used car fraud. In this blog post, we’ll explore key court decisions in Illinois that have significant implications for consumers and dealerships involved in used car transactions.

**1. People v. Atlantic Auto Group, Inc. (2020 IL App (1st) 181609)

In this Illinois Appellate Court decision, the court addressed deceptive advertising practices by a used car dealership. The court found that the dealership’s advertising, which touted false price reductions, violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act. This decision reaffirmed the importance of truth in advertising and the consequences for dealerships engaging in deceptive practices.

**2. Barton v. Auto Auction Mall, Inc. (2021 IL App (2d) 200450)

This Illinois Appellate Court case centered on an online car auction platform. The court ruled that the platform could be held liable for fraudulent misrepresentations made by a seller on its platform. This decision highlights the responsibility of online car marketplaces to monitor and address fraudulent listings. Continue reading ›

Car fraud can lead to criminal charges in addition to civil suits for consumer fraud as a recent criminal prosecution in Georgia demonstrates.

Police apprehended two employees of Newman, Georgia Nissan franchised dealer. The charges are that they fraudulently altered car purchase documents and forged customers signatures in order to overcharge customers.

A customer of the dealership, Iryna Alfieri claimed that she did not purchase any add-ons or extended warranties when she acquired her Nissan in September. However, these items were still included as part of the deal. Police discovered that the electronic signatures on that portion of the paperwork differed from those on the rest of the documents.

Newnan police wrote in its report that “Ms. Alfeiri [sic] stated that she has tried to get this matter reversed with the dealership[,] however they have not been inclined to address the issue.”

In December, Lindsay Collins, another customer, asserted that the dealership refused to accept the return of her vehicle, which she was attempting to return under the lemon law. She also alleged that her paperwork included forged signatures, and police identified an “apparent difference” in the signatures she pointed out.

On the same day, Justin Steele, another customer, claimed that he had purchased a 2018 Ford F-150 XLT from the same dealership. The dealership, however, listed the vehicle as a Ford F-150 Platinum on the loan application. This could be a part of a practice known as “power-booking,” in which dealers misrepresent the trim level of a vehicle, inflating its value to obtain higher rates from financial institutions. In this case, the difference between the two vehicles was more than $14,000.

The two men accused of this fraud appeared in court for their arraignment hearing where they pleaded not guilty. Continue reading ›

According to state law enforcement officials, a used car dealer’s business had to close down because it was accused of deceitfully earning more than $70,000 from sales.

Police claim that Ilham Driouich, aged 23 from Enola, and Anas Soubai, aged 28 from Harrisburg, dishonestly obtained $74,750 from 18 distinct clients by defrauding customers into purchasing unsafe cars or keeping down payments even though the consumers never received the cars they had wanted to purchase.

The couple, who were married, were the proprietors of Power Auto Sales, LLC, situated at 7841 Paxton Street in Swatara Township.

Driouich was accused of engaging in illegal activities, fraudulent business practices, theft by deception, receiving stolen property, and violating the board of vehicles act.

Soubai was accused of impersonating a notary public or holder of a professional or occupational license.

As per police, the two used fake inspection stickers, publicized inaccurate model years, and rolled back odometer readings to make the used cars appear to be worth a lot more than they really were.

The police also asserted that they offered warranties that were nonexistent and initiated the sale of cars via Facebook Marketplace prior to receiving a permit to carry out their business.

Police added that the dealership allegedly failed to offer consumers mandatory vehicle documentation and sold cars that were not fit for the road to unsuspecting car buyers who were under the impression that they were purchasing roadworthy cars.

“Not only did these activities compromise the safety of these clients and other drivers on the highways of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, but they also caused monetary losses on cars that either needed further repairs or could not be established as roadworthy,” stated the police report.

The police also discovered that the pair had allegedly obtained a 2019 Maserati Ghibli that was stolen in Ohio, which they bought at a significantly lower price than its actual value without a title, and then allegedly informed potential buyers that they had misplaced the title.


Continue reading ›

Plaintiff seeks damages from Defendants under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, including punitive damages, which are expressly recoverable under the Act. 815 ILCS 505/10a.

Illinois courts mandate allowing for punitive damages net-worth-related discovery, when, such damages are available as a matter of law. In Pickering v. Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp., 265 Ill. App. 3d 806, 823-24 (5th Dist. 1994), the Court stated:

It is well settled that evidence of a defendant’s net worth and pecuniary position may be introduced in a case in which punitive damages is an issue (citation omitted). No Illinois case, of which we are aware, limits the scope of financial discovery relating to punitive damages.

Similarly, in Cripe v. Leiter, 291 Ill.App.3d 155, 160 (3d Dist. 1997), the Appellate Court affirmed a contempt order against a Defendant who had argued that his personal income tax returns were not discoverable because they were inadmissible and irrelevant.

Net worth evidence is discoverable and may be admitted at trial to set punitive damages commensurate with a defendant’s wealth so that it is sufficient to adequately punish it. Tague v. Molitor Motor Co., 139 Ill. App. 3d 313, 318 (5th Dist. 1985) ($17,000 in punitive damages arising from $1,000 in actual damages was justified due to defendant’s net worth). The financial status of the defendant is important and relevant because an amount sufficient to punish one individual may be trivial to another. The amount of the award “should send a message loud enough to be heard but not so loud as to deafen the listener.” Dubey v. Pub. Storage, Inc., 395 Ill. App. 3d 342, 359, 918 N.E.2d 265, 281–82 (1st Dist. 2009). For that reason, a “plaintiff seeking punitive damages is entitled to engage in discovery relating to the defendant’s financial worth in advance of trial.” N. Dakota Fair Hous. Council, Inc. v. Allen, 298 F. Supp. 2d 897, 899 (D.N.D. 2004). Continue reading ›

If you’re going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on something, especially when it comes to something like a classic car, it’s best to do your research and make sure you’re getting what you think you’re buying. Unfortunately, car dealerships have gotten better at hiding their tracks and making their fakes look legitimate. They’ll falsify everything from the title to the vehicle identification number (VIN) to make the sale look convincing, even when it’s not.

Adam Levine, the famous singer and songwriter who is probably best known for being the lead singer and guitar player of the band, Maroon 5, is also known for collecting classic cars. Now the pop star is making headlines for the lawsuit he’s filing against Rick Cole, a high-end car dealer who allegedly sold Levine a car that’s worth less than the $850,000 Levine allegedly paid for the car.

According to the lawsuit, Levine traded two classic Ferraris, a 1968 365 and a 1972 365, in exchange for a 1971 Maserati Ghibli 4.9 Liter Spyder plus $100,000 in cash.

With just 45 known to have been built, the Ghibli 4.9 Spyder is one of the rarest Maseratis in the world. As is often the case, the scarcity of the car makes it more desirable for classic car collectors like Levine. Unfortunately, that same desire can sometimes make people like Levine a target for scammers, as apparently happened when Levine made the alleged mistake of buying a car from Rick Cole.

It wasn’t until Levine tried to sell the Maserati to Autosport Designs, a car dealer in New York, that he realized the car was not all it had been made out to be. It turned out Autosport Designs had already sold another car with an identical VIN to the car Levine was trying to sell them. It wasn’t until that point that Levine had his team conduct further investigation into the origins of the vehicle and found it was not, in fact, a Ghibli 4.9 Spyder. Continue reading ›

When a vehicle is totaled in an accident, it doesn’t always go straight to the scrap heap. Some totaled vehicles, although worth less than their insurance coverage, are still reparable. As long as they can be repaired and pass safety inspections, they can be resold. When totaled vehicles are resold without meeting these requirements, that’s when the resellers run into trouble, as three car dealerships in Pennsylvania recently discovered.

According to a recent lawsuit filed by Pennsylvania’s Attorney General, three car dealerships, all located in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, conspired with each other to sell totaled vehicles while lying about the status of their titles and safety inspections. Continue reading ›

Companies forcing their employees and buyers into arbitration to resolve any dispute has become an increasingly big problem for both consumers and employees. It prevents many complaints from ever getting resolved if the arbitration costs more than the complaint, and it prevents plaintiffs from combining many small complaints into one big action against a corporation to justify the costs of pursuing legal action. Arbitration also prevents many individuals from getting a fair hearing when going up against a big corporation hiring an arbitrator who wants to remain on good terms with a client who brings them a lot of business.

One of the most damaging aspects of forced arbitration is that it’s private, which means if someone goes to arbitration over a complaint, even if they win, they are denied from talking about it to anyone else, and there is no process for journalists to report on the case. That means other individuals with similar claims have no way of knowing someone else pursued legal action over the same issue. That, in turn, prevents more claims against the company from ever getting pursued, much less resolved. Continue reading ›

Most people buy their cars from car dealerships, but Tesla sells its cars directly to consumers, claiming to cut out the middle person and allegedly save its customers money in the process. Tesla claims it uses this system to benefit consumers, but a closer look at the contract it requires its buyers to sign may tell a slightly different story.

Tesla’s buyer contract includes an arbitration clause. That means any buyer that wants to sue Tesla, for any reason, is required to go through arbitration, rather than the courts, to pursue their claim against the electric car company. Continue reading ›

Acquiring, repairing, and maintaining classic cars isn’t easy. And when something is not easy to do, it’s often expensive. As a result, people aren’t likely to buy classic cars unless they have the money to pay for rare materials and specialized services. Unfortunately, when a lot of money is involved, fraud is usually not too far away.

William Oesterle found this out the hard way in 2011 when they bought a 1955 Austin Healey Model 100S car for $630,000. The Healey Werks Corp allegedly agreed to restore the vehicle before delivering it to Oesterle.

In 2013, Oesterle bought another car from The Healey Werks Corp, this time a 1956 Austin Healey 100M for $50,000. The car was unassembled at the time Oesterle bought it, so it was allegedly agreed that The Healey Werks Corp was going to arrange for the vehicle to be restored at some point in the future. Continue reading ›

As our world becomes increasingly digital, we’ve been able to buy more and more things online, and that trend has only increased since everyone has been stuck at home due to COVID-19. One of the last things to make the switch to buying online was cars. Rather than going to a car dealership and test driving a car that who knows how many people have already been in, many people feel safer just ordering a car from a website and having it delivered to their door, but is that legal?

While it is legal for auto dealers to sell cars online (and some dealers have gone that route) electronic vehicle manufacturers have allegedly created a problem by trying to use the internet to sell their cars directly to consumers, rather than going through a licensed auto dealer as required by Illinois law. This direct-to-consumer tactic is the basis of a lawsuit recently filed in Cook County Circuit Court by the Illinois Automobile Dealers Association, as well as other trade associations, and various auto dealers.

The lawsuit was filed against Rivian, a startup that makes electronic trucks and is converting a Mitsubishi plant in Normal, IL into a factory for its own electronic trucks and SUVs. The company plans on opening a showroom in Chicago’s Fulton Market district later in 2021, but in the meantime, it has already begun taking advance orders of its electronic vehicles online. Continue reading ›

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