BIRMINGHAM — A Cullman, Ala.-based used-car dealer pleaded guilty to violating federal protections for active-duty military service members by refusing to reduce the loan interest rate and repossessing the vehicle he sold to a man who was later deployed overseas with the Alabama National Guard, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI announced last week.
Carl Ralph Nuss, 75, pleaded guilty to two counts of violating the Servicemembers Relieve Act, which provides certain protections for service memebers called to active duty, including interest rate limitations and protection from civil suit, repossession and eviction. Nuss entered his plea without a plea agreement with the government. He is scheduled for sentencing Sept. 12.
Nuss is owner of North Alabama Wholesale Autos in Cullman, Ala. In February 2011, he sold a 2002 Ford Sport-Trac to a 22-year-old man. The dealership sold the vehicle for $9,746, and, after a $2,200 down payment, financed the balance at 25 percent interest per year, according to the indictment.
In May 2012, the Guardsman, a private first class, was called to active duty in Afghanistan. Two months later, according to the indictment, Nuss received a letter from the guardsman requesting that the dealership reduce the interest rate on his car loan from 25 percent to 6 percent, as required by law. Nuss never reduced the interest rate and, two days after receiving the letter, hired two men to repossess the guardsman’s truck. The two men repossessed the vehicle without a court order, a violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, the indictment says.
The maximum penalty for each count is one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
The FBI investigated the case, which is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney George A. Martin, Jr.