A used-car dealer in New Jersey has admitted to selling cars damaged by flooding during superstorm Sandy in 2012 to unsuspecting customers. Some of those who drove off with lemons found their cars breaking down just minutes after leaving the dealership.
According to the Asbury Park Press, the operator of a used car dealership confessed to a judge that he used fake vehicle titles to sell the waterlogged cars, aided by a former technician at the state Motor Vehicle Commission. She admitted to make the “clean” titles for the cars in the scheme.
A salesman was also charged in the scheme, as well as a clerk and receptionist at the dealership.
The con lasted from February through July 2013, after the dealership bought eight cars at auction that had been flooded during Sandy. All were owned by the same insurance company, which had them listed as acceptable to be used “for parts only.”
That’s when authorities said the dealer, helped by the insider at the Motor Vehicle Commission’s local office, created the fake titles for the cars and forged the signatures of past owners to transfer the titles over to the dealership.
Seven of those cars were sold for a gain of $86,000.
The dealer pleaded guilty to theft by deception and is facing three years in prison. He’ll also pay the scammed customers back and won’t be able to sell vehicles in New Jersey for a certain amount of time that has yet to be determined.
“By ruthlessly cashing in on superstorm Sandy, [the dealer] not only cheated customers of his car dealership, he put those customers and other motorists at risk, because these flood-damaged vehicles had the potential to fail and even catch fire on the highway,” acting Attorney General John J . Hoffman said in a prepared statement. “Two of the cars did, in fact, fail shortly after they were purchased, but fortunately no one was hurt.”
Dealer sold Sandy-flooded cars [Asbury Park Press]