Fraud: Ciasulli Family Honda and other makes

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Fraud: Bob Ciasulli auto dealerships
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New Jersey Department of Law & Public Safety Division of Consumer Affairs
New Jersey Sues Bob Ciasulli Dealerships Over Alleged Auto Fraud alleges dealerships cheated hundreds of consumers
NEWARK, NJ - New Jersey is suing 16 Bob Ciasulli auto dealerships in the largest auto fraud case in State history for allegedly failing to honor negotiated deals, misrepresenting the true odometer readings on certain cars; using deceptive bait-and-switch tactics and engaging in a combined total of at least 35 other fraudulent activities to cheat consumers in connection with their lease and sales agreements, Attorney General John J. Farmer and Consumer Affairs Director Mark S. Herr announced today.
The State's 23-count complaint, filed in Passaic County Superior Court on Tuesday, names:
Bob Ciasulli Automall, Inc., Route 46 East, Little Falls;
B.C.T. Imports, Inc., and Bob Ciasulli Toyota, Inc., Route 46 East, Little Falls;
Bob Ciasulli Jeep/Eagle, Inc., (also known as Bob Ciasulli Chrysler/Jeep, Bob Ciasulli Jeep and Bob Ciasulli Chrysler), Route 46 East, Little Falls;
Bob Ciasulli Hyundai, Inc., and Arrow Hyundai, Inc., Route 46 East, Little Falls;
Arrow Auto Imports, Inc., (also known as Bob Ciasulli Mitsubishi), Route 46 East, Little Falls;
Mack Auto Imports, Inc., (also known as Bob Ciasulli Honda and Mack Honda), 346 Route 37 East, Toms River;
Mack Dodge, Inc., (also known as Bob Ciasulli Dodge), 314 Route 37 East, Toms River;
Mack Pontiac Cadillac, Inc., Route 37 East, Toms River;
Monmouth American, Inc., and Route 88 Vehicle Corp., (also known as Monmouth Honda, Monmouth Jeep, Monmouth Jeep/Eagle and Monmouth Automall),1085 Route 88, Lakewood;
Monmouth Chrysler Plymouth, Inc., 700 Route 36, Eatontown;
M.T. Imports, Inc., (also known as Monmouth Toyota), 750 Route 36, Eatontown;
Universal Global, Inc., (also known as Bob Ciasulli Honda), Route 440 North, Jersey City; and
United Galaxy, Inc., (also known as Bob Ciasulli Lexus), Route 46 East, Little Falls;
The defendant companies are owned, operated and managed by Robert G. Ciasulli, a Kinnelon resident. Arrow Auto Imports, Inc.; Mack Pontiac Cadillac, Inc.; and Monmouth Chrysler Plymouth, Inc., are no longer in business.
"Owning a car is often a necessity in New Jersey, where there is almost a one-to-one ratio between the more than 6 million registered vehicles and the driving population," Attorney General Farmer said. "It is, therefore, important that dealerships operate in a responsible, honest and forthcoming way so that consumers are not taken for a ride. When they fail to obey our laws, it's our responsibility to protect consumers and to ensure that they pay for and correct their wrongdoings."
"This is the largest auto-related case in State history naming car dealerships," Herr said. "The prosecution involves more citizen complaints, more defendants and more allegations of fraud than any other auto fraud case ever prosecuted in New Jersey. The numbers are pretty bad, here, but the nature of the frauds involve some of the most abusive and egregious conduct Consumer Affairs has ever seen or prosecuted."
"The case also could yield more than $2 million in penalties and $350,000 in restitution," Herr added.
In the last five years, Consumer Affairs has prosecuted and/or negotiated agreements with 11 dealerships, including: Ramsey Nissan, Dodge City, Stateline Toyota, Route 22 Auto Sales, Route 22 Automobiles, Inc., Route 22 Nissan, Inc., Autoland, Crystal Auto Mall, Toms River Lincoln/Mercury/Mazda, Doms Second Chance and Ocean Motors. The defendants in these cases have paid more than $1.2 million in penalties, costs and consumer restitution.
"Auto-related complaints make up the No. 1 area of complaints at Consumer Affairs," Herr said. "We take these complaints seriously and will do what we must to protect consumers."
The State's suit alleges 42 different types of fraudulent activities by the 16 dealerships and accuses them of violating the States Consumer Fraud Act, Used Car Lemon Law, and federal odometer disclosure laws while selling and leasing a variety of vehicles, including Lexuses, Hondas, Hyundais, and Toyotas, to New Jersey consumers.
To date, 286 consumers have complained to Consumer Affairs since 1995 about the defendants' alleged unlawful activities. The bulk of the complaints were received between 1997 and 1999 and assert nearly 500 instances involving the fraudulent activities alleged in the State's suit.
The State's suit alleges that the dealerships engaged in a variety of fraudulent acts, including, among other things:
representing to consumers that certain dealer-installed or dealer-provided options, known as "after-sell" items, are mandatory, when, in fact, they are not;
charging consumers for after-sell items that have not been installed;
installing and charging consumers for after-sell items they did not agree to purchase;
failing to disclose prior damage to vehicles;
misrepresenting to consumers the true and actual odometer reading - or mileage - on vehicles;
failing to honor advertised or negotiated lease or sales prices and terms;
altering documents after they had already been signed by consumers;
requiring consumers to sign blank documents and to use dealer-arranged financing;
misrepresenting a lease agreement as a sales agreement; and
representing that a used car had one owner when, in fact, it had been used as a rental car. For example, a Toms River man bought a 1991 Chevy Beretta from Monmouth Honda, Lakewood, for $8,318. At the time of purchase, the car had 9,043 miles on it and an "Odometer Disclosure Statement" given to him by the dealer also showed that car's mileage as being 9,043. But, while driving the car home from the dealership, he noticed the odometer was not working. When he got home, he called the dealer.
"I was told the car was sold to me as is," the consumer said in a complaint to Consumer Affairs. "When I purchased the car from the dealer I was never informed of a problem with the odometer."
In fact, the consumer said, the odometer statement he received from the dealership indicated that the mileage was correct and the section on the statement where it warns consumers of an odometer discrepancy was left blank.
"When we investigated this complaint, we contacted the person who owned the car before and traded the 1991 Beretta for another car at the Monmouth Honda dealership," Herr said. "She told us that the dealership knew that there was a problem with the odometer."
The consumer wrote to Consumer Affairs that: "When I traded my Beretta in, I advised the Bob Ciasulli sales representative and manager ... that I was not aware of the actual mileage of the car because the odometer had not been recording mileage since the vehicle was in an accident and had been repaired. I told them that I estimated the mileage to be between 57,000 and 67,000 miles."
Based on the discrepancy, the car would have been worth at least $1,600 less than its $8,300 purchase price, according to the National Automobile Dealer's Association's "Official Used Car Guide."
"But that's not the worst of it," Herr said. "When we investigated this consumer's complaint, the dealer tried to cover up the alleged fraud by providing us with a falsified odometer statement reflecting that the box warning the consumer of the problem was checked off. The consumer's copy of the odometer statement, however, showed that the box was not checked off."
In another case, a Newark man complained that he went to Bob Ciasulli Lexus in Little Falls in March 1999 to buy a new Lexus and have it shipped to the Dominican Republic. As part of the arrangement, the man paid a $5,000 down payment. The dealership was to ship the car abroad.
A couple days later, he said a Ciasulli sales representative told him they could not ship the car overseas. He later learned that lending institutions generally do not allow the vehicles they finance to be taken out of the country. When he requested his $5,000 deposit back, the salesman allegedly told him it was non-refundable - even though there was no indication on the retail buyer's order that "no refunds" were made, the consumer complained.
"I asked them to show me where 'no refunds' was written because I was sure it was not written on my receipt but I didn't have it on me. So (the salesman) wrote on his receipt 'no refund' and gave me a copy of it," the consumer said, adding that he was verbally mistreated by the salesman and manager who eventually threw him out of the dealership.
"To take his money, renege on the deal and then refuse to refund his money, are blatant violations of the Consumer Fraud Act, not to mention human decency," Herr said. "These alleged acts cannot and will not go unpunished."
Another man complained to Consumer Affairs that he had been defrauded after he purchased a used Mitsubishi Galant from Bob Ciasulli Mitsubishi of Little Falls. He made an $8,500 down payment for the vehicle, the Parsippany man said, based on representations by the "sales and management team" that the vehicle had only one previous owner.
"The management further stressed that the vehicle was never involved in any kind of accident and that their service department checks for proper mechanical, electrical and safe engine functionality," the consumer wrote.
Six days after be began driving the car, it died. The consumer then learned from a service log at Mitsubishi Motors that the car had had frequent alternator problems and that it had been owned by a car rental company.
The consumer also complained that he learned that the car had been involved in an accident and "as pointed out by another dealer, the assembly was so bad that they did not even put the dash board and steering assembly to safety standards"
The State's complaint seeks an order barring the defendants from breaking state and federal consumer protection laws; requiring them to pay civil monetary penalties of up to $7,500 for the first violation of the Consumer Fraud Act and up to $15,000 for each and every subsequent violation; assessing costs and attorneys fees and requiring them to pay restitution to affected consumers.
Deputy Attorney General David M. Puteska of the Division of Law is handling this case for the State.
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