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Post date: December 13 2001

Court Freezes Assets Of Western New York Car Dealer

Attorney General Spitzer today announced that his office has obtained a court order freezing the bank accounts of a Livingston County auto dealer accused of unscrupulous financial dealings with customers.

Acting Justice of the Supreme Court Patricia D. Marks signed a restraining order freezing the personal bank accounts of Gary L. Least, Tarryn Least, principals of Least Auto Group, Inc., and the dealership's title clerk Theresa L. Dimmick.

"This group of dealerships ignored warnings by my office that its business practices were illegal and instead chose to continue victimizing its customers," Spitzer said. "As a result, Least Auto Group will face serious, consequences including its owners' bank accounts being frozen and an injunction stopping its unscrupulous tactics."

Spitzer's office first became concerned with Least Auto Group's practices in May 2000 when the office received two complaints that the dealership had failed to pay off outstanding loans for trade-ins. At that time, the complaints were resolved through mediation and Least agreed to reform its business practices.

Since that time, Spitzer's office has received nearly two dozen more complaints against Least Auto Group - including Least Ford, Inc., Least Chrysler Dodge Jeep, and Least Chevrolet, Inc. - many of which involve the non-payment of loan balances on trade-in vehicles.

The principals of Least Auto Group - which operates dealerships in both Geneseo and Livonia - are accused in a lawsuit filed in Livingston County State Supreme Court of failing to payoff outstanding balances on loans of trade-in vehicles that were used as payment toward the purchase of a car at the dealership. This practice left customers responsible for two auto loans and with delinquencies and even defaults on their credit records.

One consumer who went to Spitzer's office for help had her insurance coverage cancelled on her car and therefore, is unable to drive it, and is now stuck with two car payments instead of one. Another consumer was rejected for a mortgage because of the delinquent payments on his traded-in vehicle.

In other cases, Least Auto Group made secret monthly payments on consumer trade-in loans instead of paying off the entire balance, even after customers complained directly to the dealership owner and sales staff.

Additionally, Least Auto Group's failure to payoff loans to "floor plan" companies holding title to cars on the dealership's lot left consumers who purchased those vehicles without clear title and unable to register their cars when the temporary registration expired.

As the floor plan companies began to demand payments from the dealerships and after the Attorney General's office issued subpoenas for documents related to trade-ins, Least Auto Group filed for bankruptcy reorganization in an effort to shield itself from creditors seeking payments, including loans for trade-ins.

In addition to freezing the bank accounts, the temporary restraining order signed today orders Least and its principals to cease their illegal practices related to trade-ins and to immediately provide an accounting of all monies received by consumers who purchased or leased vehicles. The return date to address the restraining order is December 18, 2001.

The lawsuit seeks restitution for individuals injured by Least's illegal business tactics, an injunction permanently barring Least and its operators from future illegal and deceptive business practices, civil penalties and court costs.

Individuals with complaints against the Least Auto Group are encouraged to contact the Attorney General's consumer help line at (800) 771-7755.

This case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Carlos Rodriguez of the Rochester Regional Office.