HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Regulations governing the licensing and oversight of used‐car dealers in New Jersey were manipulated to allow businesses such as one that operated out of Teterboro to cheat customers without consequences, a state report released Wednesday alleges.
A Pennsylvania resident told authorities he was nearly taken after buying a 2011 Jeep Wrangler Sport for $19,999 from Jersey Motors Inc.
A week later, mechanics who inspected the vehicle called it "a death trap" and gave the owner an $8,300 repair estimate, the State Commission Of Investigation reported.
Someone "had made a poor attempt to repair and disguise severe accident damage to the driver’s side front‐end," the SCI report says. What's more, welds were splitting, joints were loose, gear oil was leaking and the driveshaft was bent, held to the frame by a single loose bolt.
"For weeks, the buyer tried fruitlessly to contact the dealership," the report says. "When the manager finally returned his call, the buyer told him he had filed a complaint with the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.
"He also told the dealer something else: that he is employed as a detective with the Northampton Police Department."The manager "abruptly" took back the Jeep in trade for a 2008 Lexus and offered to waive dealer fees and taxes and pay $900 for two new front tires and repairs to the second vehicle’s axle, the SCI wrote.
The case was one of several cited in its report, which accused the dealers of engaging in "unscrupulous and possibly illegal activities."
The commission identified 11 multi-location dealers that it said were granted favorable treatment by state Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) officials, thanks to "strong, and sometimes undisclosed, lobbying pressure in Trenton."
Those dealers enabled an estimated 2,450 car dealers to operate "beyond the state's regulatory authorities," the SCI said.
Multi-dealer locations identified in the report included Caesar Corp. and Deese Property, LLC, both on Railroad Avenue in Hasbrouck Heights, and Richard Catena and Dreese Property LLC, both on Industrial Avenue in Teterboro. Jersey Dealers was one of 172 dealers who leased space with either Catena or Dreese.
Making it possible, the SCI alleges, were mid-level MVC managers who "frustrated, delayed or derailed" efforts to scrutinize some dealerships."
The report recommends removing responsibility for licensing and oversight of used-car dealers from the MVC to a "professional regulatory board" that would be created within the Division of Consumer Affairs.
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