BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Dealer John Giuffre was ordered to pay a total of $510,000 after four of his stores were found guilty of fraudulent, deceptive and illegal business practices, which, according to court files, left some consumers with ruined credit reports.
Kings Count Supreme Court Judge Bernard Graham ordered Giuffre to pay $294,500 to 46 victims, and $215,500 in civil penalties and costs, which Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman called a victory for consumers. He charged Guiffre and his Giuffre Hyundai, Giuffre Kia, Giuffre Mitsubishi and Giuffre Mazda dealerships with fraudulent sales practices, including adding unwanted options and pressuring customers into signing blank contracts.
“This order is a victory for consumers who were ripped off by Giuffre car dealerships. My office will continue to aggressively monitor business practices of dealerships around the state to ensure they comply with the laws designed to keep the auto market honest and maintain a level playing field for consumers,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “The deceptive conduct led consumers to sign contracts which did not reflect the negotiated sale terms, frequently including unwanted aftermarket add-ons. Some of these transactions led to repossessions and ruined credit, as the consumers found themselves owing more than they ever would have knowingly agreed to pay.”
The action was brought against the Giuffre dealerships after Schneiderman’s office received complaints from numerous consumers and conducted an investigation into the dealership’s practices. Schneiderman alleged that Giuffre engaged in a pattern of fraudulent and deceptive practices by the dealerships, including publication of misleading advertisements in the form of deceptive contest promotions; misrepresenting the terms of the sale and financing during sales negotiations; adding the costs of unwanted aftermarket items into contracts and financing agreements; and using high pressure sales tactics to induce consumers into signing blank contracts.
In his decision, Judge Graham found that the evidence presented showed “a common practice of strong-arm sales methods and unethical conduct” by the dealerships, which he found to be “extensive and unsettling.” The judge also noted the “brazen nature of the salespersons employed by” Giuffre, and that many of the victims were “older persons, unsophisticated, or unfamiliar with English, and each person wound up owning a car that they never intended to buy or a price that was dishonestly represented to them.”
The dealerships are enjoined from any further violation of New York’s Executive Law, General Business Law, the NY Motor Vehicle Retail Installment Sales Act, and the Federal Truth in Lending Act. Giuffre also has to take steps to have credit reporting agencies, banking institutions, creditors and lenders remove negative credit information entered against Giuffre customers because of his dealerships’ practices.