Long Island And Hudson Valley Auto Dealerships Pay Fines Of Over $500,000 For Falsifying Vehicle Registration Forms

Attorney General Spitzer today announced settlements with fifteen Long Island and Hudson Valley auto dealerships that routinely falsified pickup truck registration forms.

In total, the fifteen dealerships agreed to pay $540,000 in penalties and costs in connection with the investigation of allegations that they filed false documents with the State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in order to register large pickup trucks as passenger vehicles instead of commercial vehicles. 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. These dealers repeatedly abused their privilege to issue temporary registrations, falsely claiming the pickup trucks they sold had been modified.

The fraudulent registrations for approximately 1,000 pickup trucks were filed by the dealerships to circumvent the ban against commercial vehicles - - including large pickup trucks like the Ford F-250, Dodge 2500 and Chevrolet Silverado 2500 - - from driving on state parkways, such as the Taconic, Sawmill, Robert Moses and other parkways.

"Dealerships that violate the law when registering vehicles will be held accountable, and these fines should send a strong message to other dealers not to abuse the privileges granted by the Department of Motor Vehicles," Spitzer said.

Spitzer’s investigation began in early 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 spread to Long Island where additional dealers were found to have engaged in the practice.

To gain DMV approval for the registrations, the auto dealerships falsely certified that the trucks had been modified to conform with DMV regulations for passenger vehicles. At times, the dealerships provided DMV with fraudulent invoices from third party vendors indicating that such modifications had been made to the trucks.

In addition to paying fines, the dealerships will notify all customers for whom they fraudulently obtained passenger registrations for pickup trucks and offer to re-register the trucks at the dealerships’ expense. Each dealership also will be subject to three years of monitoring by the Attorney General’s office and the state DMV, including quarterly affidavits signed by its president attesting to the dealership’s compliance with registration requirements for pickup trucks and random auditing over the three year period.

Specifically, the civil penalties and costs to be paid by the dealerships include:

  • Security Dodge in Amityville, Suffolk County: $100,000;
  • Herbee Motors in West Islip, Suffolk County: $100,000;
  • Franklin Square Ford in Franklin Square, Nassau County: $70,000;
  • Performance Chevrolet in East Meadow, Nassau County: $25,000;
  • Lee Dodge in Farmingdale, Nassau County: $25,000;
  • Sayville Ford in Sayville, Suffolk County: $25,000;
  • Scarsdale Ford in Scarsdale, Westchester County: $25,000;
  • Rye Ford in Rye, Westchester County: $25,000;
  • Smith-Cairns Ford in Yonkers, Westchester County: $25,000;
  • Vail Buick-Pontiac-GMC in Bedford Hills, Westchester County: $30,000;
  • Vail Chevrolet in Harrison, Westchester County: $15,000;
  • Arnold Chevrolet in Amityville, Suffolk County: $35,000;
  • Park Ford of Mahopac in Mahopac, Putnam County: $20,000;
  • New Rochelle Chevrolet in New Rochelle, Westchester County: $15,000; and
  • Curry Ford/Subaru in Scarsdale, Westchester County: $15,000.

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 registration of pickup trucks, consumers can go to www.dmv.ny.gov.

The investigations were handled by Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Garin with the assistance of Senior Consumer Representative Mark Hoops, of the Poughkeepsie Regional Office, Juan Merchan, Assistant Attorney General In Charge of the Nassau Regional Office with the assistance of Senior Investigator Angel Rivera.