NEWARK – Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino and the Division of Consumer Affairs today announced that a Somerset County auto dealership has agreed to pay $37,500 to reimburse six consumers whose cash deposits were allegedly stolen by a sales representative who has since been fired from the dealership.
Liccardi Ford, Inc. (“Liccardi Ford”), which does business as Liccardi Ford Lincoln and Liccardi Auto Group in Watchung, agreed to reimburse the consumers to resolve the Division’s investigation into their complaints.
The consumers allege they gave cash - ranging from $2,000 to $15,000 - to a Liccardi Ford sales representative as down payments on new and used vehicles that were supposed to be ordered from other sellers and brought to the Watchung dealership for their purchase. When the consumers returned to Liccardi Ford to finalize their sales, they were told that the representative had been fired and the dealership had no record of them or their deposits.
“These customers handed over their cash in good faith, trusting that the money would be used as down payments on the cars they ordered, not pocketed by an unscrupulous salesman, as it appears happened here,” said Attorney General Porrino. “What makes this situation even more troubling is that all of these customers speak very little English, a fact the salesman allegedly exploited for his own financial gain.”
The salesman, Benjamin Carrasquillo, of New York City, has been indicted in Somerset County on charges of third-degree theft by deception in connection with the missing deposits.
The Division’s investigation found that the consumers initially met with Carrasquillo while shopping for vehicles between March and June 2017. After Carrasquillo found vehicles for their purchase at other sales locations, the consumers agreed to provide cash deposits so that the vehicles could be transported to Liccardi Ford for their purchase. The consumers allege that the Carrasquillo insisted they provide cash deposits, and refused to accept checks or credit cards. Each consumer completed and received a document signed by Carrasquillo which set forth the terms of the proposed sale.
But when the consumers went back to Liccardi Ford to pick up their vehicles, they were told that Carrasquillo had been fired for poor attendance, and that the dealership had no record of their down payments or any documents reflecting the order or sale of the vehicles to the consumers.
The consumers submitted complaints to the Division’s Office of Consumer Protection, which launched an investigation into the matter. The Division and Liccardi Ford entered into a Consent Order in which the dealership agreed to reimburse the six consumers for their lost deposits totaling $37,500.
“We’re pleased to have reached a settlement in which consumers are able to fully recoup the financial losses they suffered," said Sharon Joyce, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “The purchase of a vehicle is a major investment and we will continue to utilize the full scope of our powers in our efforts to protect consumers from fraud in such significant purchases.”
Under the Consent Order, Liccardi Ford also agreed to handle future consumer complaints in the manner set forth in a 2005 Consent Order the dealership previously entered into with the Division, specifically, through the Division's Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process.
Investigator Jesse Maneiro, of the Division’s Office of Consumer Protection, conducted the investigation.
Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Koziar, of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section within the Division of Law, represented the Division in this matter.
Thomas G. Russomano, of Schiller & Pittenger, P.C., represented Liccardi Ford, in this matter.
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