Did you perchance buy a car from Penn Avenue Auto Sales Inc. in Wilkinsburg, a Pittsburgh-area borough?
If so, was it summarily towed away to an impound lot?
In what must certainly qualify as one of the stranger stories related to auto dealer fraud and resulting consumer harm, the owner of that business enterprise was recently arrested and criminally charged for taking actions that defrauded many of his business customers.
Whatever that owner was thinking, it obviously didn’t incorporate a well-considered and forward-thinking business plan geared toward customer loyalty and continued profitability.
What was going on at Penn Avenue Auto for several months was the owner’s pocketing of money received from vehicle buyers that should have been sent on to the PennDOT to cover transaction-related fees and taxes.
That left — quite literally — some owners in the cold, given that they did not timely receive updated license plates and relevant paperwork from the state and, as a result, had their vehicles impounded.
The scam ensnared more than 40 innocent victims.
And, of course, the claims of those consumers were routinely responded to by police officers who doubted their veracity. A state police news release discussing the scam noted officers’ lack of time “to investigate the victims’ seemingly wild claims of dealer fraud.”
Those claims are of course clearly validated now. A DOT spokesperson says that a bond required to be put up by dealers — which Penn Avenue Auto paid — protects defrauded consumers, and it will be tapped to cover what is owed the state.
As this story clearly demonstrates, auto dealer fraud can take many forms. A Pennsylvania consumer with any questions or concerns regarding vehicle sellers’ fraudulent activities can obtain advice and strong legal representation from a proven consumer protection attorney.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Police: Wilkinsburg auto dealer failed to forward customer fees to PennDOT,” Lexi Belculfine, Feb. 2, 2015