The upstanding individuals at Serra Nissan just can’t catch a break. First their employees pled guilty with a massive loan scheme, then prosecutors go after upper level employees for conspiracy and wire fraud. Now the dealership is facing a civil lawsuit that alleges customers were purchasing cars from a “criminal enterprise.”
Automotive News reports that an Alabama couple is suing Serra Nissan and has named Anthony Serra, CEO of Serra Automotive Group, Serra Nissan and Serra Volkswagen as defendants.
The plaintiffs say the lawsuit stems from an an incident in 2013 when the couple purchased a 2011 Corolla from the dealership.
The couple says they were falsely told they could refinance their car loan for a lower rate. They also claim that Serra employees lied to their lender by saying car had features such as a Bose stereo, leather seats, and navigation. This tactic is known as “power booking” and is used to falsely report the value of a car so the lender will offer a larger loan.
The buyers were made aware of this practice when they were contacted by the IRS and were told that the dealership gave false information to their lender in order to inflate their payment in order to add and extended service contract and guaranteed asset protection plan without the customers realizing it. The couple also alleges that when they signed their paperwork the manager hid portions of the documents.
In a statement the plaintiff’s attorney said:
“There appears to have been a pervasive scheme at Serra Nissan where people were sold products they didn’t know they were buying and had products adding to the price of the car and they didn’t know what were paying for...What we just don’t know at this point is how large the fraudulent scheme is and how many people were impacted.” - Jerome Tapley, a principal at Cory Watson in Birmingham.
The law firm claims it has talked to hundreds of customers that were impacted by the fraudulent practices of this dealership and they are seeking a class action designation for the suit. The plaintiffs seek undetermined punitive and compensatory damages, but Tapely said it is $3,000 to $10,000 in losses per client.
Attorneys for Serra Nissan have vowed to defend the dealership against what they are calling “false allegations” and claim that dealership owner Tony Serra had no involvement in nor encouraged or condoned any criminal conduct.
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