Former Westport Car Dealer Slammed with $450K Settlement
BOSTON — A now-defunct auto dealer in Westport is being ordered to pay nearly half-a-million dollars in restitution and penalties after an investigation into deceptive practices by the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office.
Attorney General Maura Healey announced that F&R Auto Sales will be forced to pay $450,000 as part of a consent judgment filed in Bristol County Superior Court. The judgment settled a lawsuit filed by the AG's Office against F&R Auto Sales and former owner Francis Correiro. The complaint alleged that the dealership sold unsafe and defective vehicles by using deceptive business practices between August 2012 and December 2016 when the business closed.
“This business and its owner cheated customers and threatened public safety by putting dangerous vehicles on the road,” said AG Healey. “I am pleased that this settlement will allow us to get money back to consumers defrauded by F&R Auto.”
An investigation by the Attorney General's Office was launched after receiving more than 100 individual complaints alleging deceptive auto sales and practices by F&R Auto, including routine sale of defective cars and the failure to provide proper transactional documents to customers.
The investigation revealed that salespeople at F&R Auto often told customers that vehicles were safe and reliable in order to make sales. But when customers returned to the dealership reporting problems with their vehicles, the dealership frequently dismissed the issues or refused to make repairs.
In one instance, a customer complained that F&R Auto neglected to make agreed-upon repairs to a car they had recently purchased from the dealer. When the owner took the vehicle to a different dealership, they were told the car needed over $15,000 in repairs. The repair bill far exceeded the value of the car.
The AG's Office says F&R Auto also sold a faulty truck that broke down within 24 hours of its delivery and then refused to provide a copy of the truck's inspection report upon the request of the customer. The customer took the truck to a mechanic who informed him that the vehicle needed new shocks and an exhaust system.
Healey's office also discovered that Correiro and F&R Auto failed to assign titles to vehicles or provide customers with copies of the appropriate documents relating to the sale of vehicles which prevented many from properly registering and inspecting their vehicles or exercising their lemon law rights to get repairs or refunds.
The dealership also neglected to safeguard consumers' sensitive information such as Social Security and financial account numbers.
Under the settlement, F&R Auto and Correiro will pay $400,000 to affected customers and $50,000 in penalties. The defendants will also pay another $50,000 if there is any violation of the settlement. The terms of the settlement also permanently prohibit Correiro from selling unsafe and defective cars and requires him to notify the AG's Office if he ever decides to sell used cars again.