Truck Registration Investigation Yields Three More Agreements

Attorney General Spitzer today announced additional agreements with auto dealerships in the Hudson Valley and Long Island stemming from a broad investigation into the fraudulent registration of pickup trucks.

Three dealerships paid a total of $150,000 in civil penalties in connection with an investigation of whether they filed documents with the State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) that resulted in the registration of large pickup trucks as passenger vehicles instead of commercial vehicles. Specifically, Medford-based Neil Buick Corporation, owner of Neil Dodge, agreed to pay $70,000, Meadowland Chrysler-Plymouth, Inc., of Carmel, agreed to pay $65,000, and Brewster Ford agreed to pay $15,000, all in civil penalties.

Pickup trucks over 5,500 lbs. must be registered as commercial vehicles unless they have been modified with a permanent hard cap over the bed of the truck and have installed seats or camping equipment in the bed of the truck. Spitzer’s investigation found that these auto dealerships repeatedly abused their privilege to issue temporary registrations by falsely claiming that pickup trucks they sold had been modified, allowing them to be registered as passenger vehicles.

The fraudulent registration of pickup trucks as passenger vehicles was done, in part, to circumvent the ban against commercial vehicles - - including large pickup trucks like the Dodge 2500 - - from driving on State parkways.

Spitzer’s investigation began in 2004 after the State Police contacted his office to report that a number of pickup trucks stopped for traffic violations on State parkways in the Hudson Valley had been issued passenger vehicle license plates instead of commercial plates. The investigation later expanded to Long Island where additional dealers were found to have engaged in the practice.

In addition to paying fines, Neil Dodge, Meadowland Chrysler and Brewster Ford will notify all customers for whom they obtained improper registrations and offer to re-register the trucks at the dealership’s expense. The three dealers also will be subject to three years of monitoring by the Attorney General’s office and the State DMV, including the submission of quarterly affidavits signed by their presidents attesting to the dealership’s compliance with registration requirements and random auditing.

Since July of this year, Spitzer’s investigation has resulted in agreements with 18 dealerships, which have paid a total of $690,000 in penalties.

Spitzer thanked State Police Trooper Jim Cogan and Major John J. Noonan of Troop K in Poughkeepsie for bringing this matter to his office’s attention. Spitzer also acknowledged the assistance of the DMV in this matter.

For more information about regulations related to the registration of pickup trucks, consumers can go to www.nydmv.state.ny.us/register.htm#pickup.

The investigation of these dealerships was conducted by Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Garin with the assistance of Senior Consumer Representative Mark Hoops, of the Poughkeepsie Regional Office.

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