Used car dealers in Pennsylvania can be fined or lose their business licenses for violating the state’s consumer protection laws, and they may also face federal prosecutions when their illegal behavior is orchestrated using wire communications or conducted over state lines. This is the predicament that a former used car dealer in Wisconsin recently found himself in. The man was originally being investigated for fraud by the Brown County Sheriff’s Office, but U.S. attorneys became involved when the scope of his activities became clear.
The man was charged with multiple counts of bank, wire and mail fraud following a three-year state and federal investigation. Prosecutors claim that he found his victims by offering to sell on consignment cars that had been advertised on Craigslist. The man is said to have then sold the vehicles without informing or paying the owners. He is also alleged to have produced counterfeit titles so that vehicle buyers could obtain bank loans.
A lawsuit filed in September 2016 by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation lists 12 banks, 15 vehicle sellers and 10 vehicle buyers who suffered financial losses due to the man’s alleged activities. At least eight people have filed civil lawsuits against the man. One of these lawsuits, which was brought by an automobile lending and auction business, resulted in a judgement of $241,000. The man’s brother has been charged in an unrelated case with odometer tampering. He is accused of removing hundreds of thousands of miles from the odometers of 22 vehicles he purchased on Craigslist.
Attorneys with experience in this area may pursue civil remedies against unscrupulous car dealers or other businesses on behalf of consumers who have suffered injury, loss or damage due to misrepresentation or fraud. Attorneys may also take steps to ensure that companies in violation of Pennsylvania’s consumer laws face official as well as civil sanctions.