POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo's office has filed suit against Poughkeepsie Chevrolet and its former owner, Raymond Wilkinson III, for failing to inform customers that the cars they purchased were previously used as rental vehicles, then altering documents to cover up the fraud.

The AG's office obtained a court order Monday that protects any consumers who were defrauded by the dealership's sales of rental cars. The lawsuit seeks restitution for the buyers plus penalties and costs. Dutchess County Supreme Court Acting Justice Thomas J. Dolan today ordered Wilkinson to post a $500,000 bond to fund any monetary award that may be forthcoming.

"This business failed to provide legally required notifications to its customers, thereby withholding important vehicle information that would influence the decision of whether or not to purchase a particular car," Cuomo said. "Our lawsuit exposes the myth that this dealership was being truthful with consumers. As with any business that defrauds consumers, we will hold responsible those who are engaged in such deceptive tactics."

The New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law requires dealers to notify car buyers before purchase if their vehicle was previously part of a rental fleet. The rule is meant to allow buyers the opportunity to either back out of the purchase or negotiate a discount from the vehicle's fair market value. Several affected customers indicated to investigators that they would not have purchased their vehicles at the price they paid had they known they were buying former rentals.

Cuomo told reporters that his office's investigation included the examination of sales records for the previous year and uncovered a consistent pattern of violations of the rental car rule. He also accused the dealer of engaging in other deceptive acts with regards to vehicle histories, including the omission of previous owners and failure to provide copies of extended warranties.

The attorney general further alleged that Poughkeepsie Chevrolet attempted to cover up its actions by providing copies of purchase agreements to Cuomo's office that appeared to have been altered some time after the transactions were completed.