By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
In what New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman called “a victory for consumers” a judge has ordered the owner of four Bay Ridge car dealerships to pay back a total of $294,500 to customers after it was found that the auto dealer had engaged in deceptive sales tactics.
New York State had sought action against Giuffre Hyundai, Giuffre Kia, Giuffre Mitsubishi, Giuffre Mazda, and the owner of the auto dealerships, John Giuffre, for what Schneiderman called persistent fraudulent, deceptive, and illegal business practices in the sale and financing of automobiles.
The illegal practices left some consumers with ruined credit reports, authorities said.
Justice Bernard Graham of Kings County Supreme Court ordered the businesses to pay a total of $510,000, including restitution in the amount of $294,500 to 46 victims, and $215,500 in civil penalties and costs.
“This order is a victory for consumers who were ripped off by Giuffre car dealerships. My office will continue to aggressively monitor business practices of dealerships around the state to ensure they comply with the laws designed to keep the auto market honest and maintain a level playing field for consumers,” Schneiderman said.
“The deceptive conduct led consumers to sign contracts which did not reflect the negotiated sale terms, frequently including unwanted aftermarket add-ons. Some of these transactions led to repossessions and ruined credit, as the consumers found themselves owing more than they ever would have knowingly agreed to pay” the attorney general said.
The action was brought against the Giuffre dealerships after the attorney general’s office received complaints from numerous consumers and conducted an investigation into the dealership’s practices.
The attorney general alleged that Giuffre engaged in a pattern of fraudulent and deceptive practices by the dealerships, including publication of misleading advertisements in the form of deceptive contest promotions; misrepresenting the terms of the sale and financing during sales negotiations; adding the costs of unwanted aftermarket items into contracts and financing agreements; and using high pressure sales tactics to induce consumers into signing blank contracts.
In his decision, Judge Graham found that the evidence presented showed “a common practice of strong-arm sales methods and unethical conduct” by the dealerships, which he found to be “extensive and unsettling.”
The judge also noted the “brazen nature of the sales persons employed by” Giuffre, and that many of the victims were “older persons, unsophisticated, or unfamiliar with English, and each person wound up owning a car that they never intended to buy or a price that was dishonestly represented to them.”
As part of the judge’s order, Giuffre also has to take steps to have credit reporting agencies, banking institutions, creditors and lenders remove negative credit information entered against Giuffre customers attributable to Giuffre’s business practices.
Meanwhile, the owner of another car dealership, who said he shares the same name as the Giuffre dealer in hot water with the state, is seeking to distance himself from the mess.
John Giuffre, owner of Bay Ridge Automobiles said he wanted to clarify the record following media reports regarding the other auto dealership.
Bay Ridge Automotive is an entirely separate entity, which is unrelated to do the “John Giuffre” in question, according to John Giuffre.
“I and Bay Ridge Automotive would like to officially make it clear that we have never been accused of fraud and have no government sanctions whatsoever. I am a very active member of my community, involved in local charity work – helping children with cancer, providing food for those who are hungry, and making sure those who need have access to resources when they need it most. We are concerned with helping our community and will continue to support and lend a hand,” Giuffre said.
“There is another individual in Brooklyn who has the same name as me, but we are not the same person,” he added.