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Post date: March 15 2004

Federal And State Courts Order Owners Of Livingston Co. Auto Dealerships To Pay Restitution

Attorney General Spitzer today announced that his office has obtained court orders and judgments against the owners of several Livingston County auto dealerships involved in a massive auto loan scam.

"My office will do everything in its power to ensure that the restitution judgments ordered in this case are satisfied and that justice is served," Spitzer said.

The Honorable John C. Ninfo II, Chief Bankruptcy Judge for the Western District of New York, issued two orders last month in resolution of Spitzer's adversary proceeding filed in Gary Least's personal bankruptcy proceeding. The orders prevent Gary Least from avoiding payment through bankruptcy of $1.3 million in judgments related to Spitzer's civil case and the Livingston County District Attorney's criminal case against him.

Today, Acting Livingston County Justice of the State Supreme Court Patricia D. Marks approved a judgment against Gary L. Least, Tarryn Least and the Least Auto Group dealerships including: Least Ford, Inc., Least Chrysler Plymouth Dodge, Inc. d/b/a Least Chrysler Plymouth Dodge Jeep, and Least Chevrolet, Inc.

Specifically, that court judgment holds Gary and Tarryn Least and the Least auto dealerships jointly and personally liable for the payment of over $154,000 in restitution for their fraudulent conduct and deceptive business practices related to claims filed by 210 individuals. The civil order relates to restitution for payments made by consumers for fictitious extended warranties and registration services paid for, but not received. The restitution order also covers reimbursements of credit report costs to victims named in the criminal case.

In November, 2002, Livingston County District Attorney Thomas Moran, in conjunction with Spitzer's office, obtained a criminal restitution order totaling nearly $1.14 million on behalf of 70 consumer victims when the Least dealerships failed to pay off outstanding balances on loans of trade-in vehicles that were used as payment toward the purchase of a car at the dealership.

In addition, Spitzer's office has successfully intervened on behalf of consumers with the lenders on loans obtained through the dealership. Last August, Spitzer's office entered into a stipulation last August with Charter One Bank FSB and obtained approximately $458,000 in restitution in the form of lien releases and "satisfaction of loan" documents for 34 consumers who had outstanding auto loans with the lender.

Spitzer's office, joined by Livingston County District Attorney Thomas Moran, also was the catalyst in obtaining relief for consumers with other lenders, including Steuben Trust Company, Wyoming County Bank, GMAC, and Ford Motor Credit Corporation. At the urging of District Attorney Moran and the Attorney General's office, these financial institutions have provided relief to consumers, including individual agreements in which the lender promises not to commence legal proceedings if consumers assign their restitution to the lender.

The remaining 17 lenders, to date, have voluntarily complied with the "cease and desist" letters issued by Spitzer's office and have refrained from dunning consumers for the outstanding loans. Spitzer's office continues to work with those lenders to obtain final relief for individuals.

The final judgment permanently bars Gary Least from engaging in any business related to the sale, brokering, rental or lease of automobiles in New York State. Tarryn Least is required to post a $250,000 performance bond prior to her engaging in any such business enterprise.

In a decision issued last April, Justice Marks upheld all the allegations made in Spitzer's 2001 lawsuit against the Least Auto Group, including:

  • Failure to pay off outstanding balances on loans of trade-in vehicles that were used as payment toward the purchase of a car at the dealership;
  • Engaging in fraudulent practices related to the sale of service contracts and extended warranties;
  • Engaging in fraudulent collection of DMV registration and title fees;
  • Selling vehicles without clean title; and
  • Violating state law with respect to issuing of temporary certificates of registration.

In issuing the consent order and judgment, Justice Marks also ordered the defendants to cooperate in repairing the credit of victimized consumers, including advising and cooperating with credit reporting agencies, financial and banking institutions, creditors and lenders to remove all negative credit information that was entered in any consumer credit file related to the Leasts' fraudulent and illegal conduct.

The civil case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Carlos Rodriguez of the Rochester Regional office.