OLYMPIA -- A Vancouver, Wash., car dealer who depleted a 69-year-old mentally impaired man's retirement savings by selling him 18 cars in 14 months will pay $15,000 in civil penalties and $17,000 in attorney fees, Attorney General Christine Gregoire announced today.
That is in addition to a separate, private settlement reached between the dealership and the man's lawyer that restored the man's savings and left him with a new vehicle.
According to a consent decree filed today in Clark County Superior Court, A&D Auto Sales, which does business as Vancouver Mazda/Dodge, sold the man 18 new or nearly new vehicles over 14 months.
The Attorney General's Office alleged the dealer violated the state's Consumer Protection Act by misrepresenting trade in values and lease terms, and by misrepresenting the optional nature of various financing and insurance products available to consumers.
According to the documents, the dealership's managers and sales people pretended to befriend the elderly man in order to get him to buy vehicles at retail prices and then trade them in days or weeks later at a lower, wholesale price. Meantime, the dealership kept the difference.
In the papers, the state contends that corporate officers, Monte Phillips and Peter Cann, and other dealership staff took advantage of the elderly man's mental impairment to persuade him that the repeated car sales and trade-ins were "good deals."
In order to build trust and make the man believe they were his friend, dealership staff provided the man with a personally monogrammed director's chair in the dealership's showroom, and treated him to dinner while secretly using his own money to pay for everyone's dinner, the papers said.
"No consumer should fall prey to this kind of deceptive behavior, but it is especially troubling when a business takes advantage of a victim's disability in order to make money," Gregoire said.