MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. — Secretary of State Ruth Johnson has summarily suspended the licenses of five Detroit used-vehicle dealers after her office identified and investigated a web of suspicious auto transactions.

Secretary of State staff also are cooperating with area law enforcement agencies, including the Detroit Police Commercial Auto Theft Section, to prosecute criminal cases against those involved in allegedly trafficking in stolen vehicles and auto parts. The comprehensive investigation continues and could result in additional licensing action and criminal charges against other individuals involved, officials said.

“Most auto dealers are reputable business people, but if we discover illegal activity, we will take swift action to protect Michigan consumers,” Johnson said. “We will not tolerate businesses that take advantage of unsuspecting consumers and will hold these bad actors accountable.”

The investigation and resulting suspensions are part of Johnson’s ongoing efforts to crack down on fraudulent activity that victimizes Michigan residents.

The Detroit dealerships were suspended effective May 28. The summary suspension, a step not often taken against dealerships, is used to protect the public. The dealers are entitled to an administrative hearing to contest the suspension, but until then they are closed for business. The dealers involved are:

  • Hende Auto Parts, a used-vehicle and used-vehicle parts dealer, licensed since 2012
  • Best Price Auto Sale, Inc., a used-vehicle dealer, licensed since 2014
  • Sold Auto Sale, Inc., a used-vehicle dealer, licensed since 2011
  • Big 3 Auto Sales, Inc., a used-vehicle and used-vehicle parts dealer, licensed since 2011
  • A One Auto Sales, Inc., a used-vehicle dealer, licensed since 2013

Johnson commended her newly formed Office of Investigative Services for using new transaction analysis methods to identify suspicious activity, and then working with law enforcement to investigate and take action.

“This is a great example of our partnership with law enforcement and the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office,” said Al Kimichik, director of the Office of Investigative Services.

The investigation found that the dealerships committed multiple fraudulent acts in connection with dealing in vehicles as well as numerous record-keeping violations. In particular, the licensee of Hende Auto Parts was arrested by Detroit police during their investigation of Best Price Auto, where a recent search by police resulted in the seizure of more than 30 vehicles and the discovery of stolen auto parts. Criminal charges are pending against people associated with both dealerships for possession of stolen vehicles and parts.

Hende employees also are under investigation for fraudulently obtaining or attempting to obtain clear Michigan titles for salvage vehicles. An improperly inspected and titled rebuilt vehicle could be unsafe to drive and would be fraudulently offered to a consumer as a vehicle that hasn’t had major components replaced.