Source: US State of New York
Queens Dealership Targeted Chinese-speaking Community
New Yorkers Affected Should Contact the OAG at 1-800-771-7755
QUEENS – Attorney General Letitia James today delivered justice and restitution for New Yorkers who were targeted and conned by a Bayside car dealership. Star Auto Sales of Bayside, Inc., d/b/a Star Toyota of Bayside, used fraudulent, deceptive, and unlawful practices to sell and finance used vehicles to Chinese-speakers who lacked English language skills and who were not familiar with typical auto sales practices.
“Stealing from our immigrant communities by taking advantage of language barriers is not only illegal, but downright shameful,” said Attorney General James. “New York values its immigrant communities, and we will not stand idly by while they are targeted. I look forward to returning hard-earned money back into the pockets of consumers, and I am proud to be able to fight for the rights of all New Yorkers.”
Star Toyota advertised in Chinese-language publications, inviting consumers to come in and meet with the dealership’s Chinese-speaking sales representatives. The sales staff built a trusting relationship with customers and reassured them that they could trust them because of their common language.
Instead, the auto dealership preyed upon the unsuspecting customers by having them sign contracts to purchase their vehicles at higher costs than agreed to during Chinese-language negotiations. Additionally, the sale representatives increased the consumers’ total costs by adding unwanted aftermarket products to customers’ contacts without the customers’ knowledge or consent; a practice called “jamming.” The aftermarket items jammed into the contracts included unwanted supplemental warranties, service contracts, and theft insurance policies. Additionally, the dealership often failed to provide buyers with copies of the sales or lending contracts, which prevented the consumers from discovering how the dealership had increased their final costs. Star Toyota then regularly submitted inflated or made up personal financial information to their lenders to secure loans that the customers struggled to pay. Finally, the sales reps would take advantage of these consumers’ lack of familiarity with domestic auto sales practices by demanding tips or taking cash from consumers for expenses that were already included in their transactions.
The initial consumer complaints were received from U.S. Representative Grace Meng’s office.
“I thank and commend Attorney General James for investigating the complaints that were referred by my office,” said U.S. Representative Grace Meng. “I’m pleased that these cases were pursued, and that restitution is being delivered to those who were duped into shelling out additional and unnecessary funds for their vehicles. Taking advantage of customers, particularly those with limited English proficiency, is unconscionable and shameful. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon in immigrant communities where cultural and language barriers exist. But these cases should serve as a warning to others who seek to swindle vulnerable individuals out of their hard-earned money. Ripping off consumers will not be tolerated and those who do will face the consequences of their actions.”
“Queens lauds Attorney General Letitia James for securing substantial restitution for the customers duped by this unscrupulous dealership,” said Queens Borough President Sharon Lee. “This also sends a strong message to other businesses: such deceptive practices, especially ones that prey upon vulnerable populations and take advantage of non-English speakers, will be checked. Thank you, Representative Meng and General James for protecting and fighting for consumers.”
“It’s truly reprehensible that a car dealer would use the native language of hardworking, trusting consumers to prey on and cheat them out of hard-earned money,” said State Senator John Liu. “Unfortunately, this is not the first time we have worked on this scam, but hopefully it will be the last thanks to the vigorous efforts of Attorney General Letitia James.”
“Deceptive sales tactics and schemes targeting consumers, especially those made vulnerable by a language barrier, will not be tolerated in Queens, the most linguistically diverse county in the world, or in New York state,” said City Council Member Paul Vallone. “I thank Attorney General Letitia James and her office for their dedication to protecting our New York consumers and enforcing the law.”
The Office of the Attorney General alleged that Star Auto Sales of Bayside violated Executive Law 63(12) for fraud or illegality in the conduct of business and GBL 349 for engaging in deceptive business practices. A consent order resolving these allegations was granted in New York Supreme Court, Queens County and signed by Hon. Richard G. Latin. The order awards $100,000 in civil penalties to the state of New York and $186,855 in restitution to 21 known consumers. A notice of this settlement will also be publicized in a local Chinese publication, allowing additional claimants to come forward to claim restitution during a 90-day window.
Attorney General James encourages any Chinese-speaking consumers who believe they were deceived by Star Toyota of Bayside from January 1, 2014 to March 1, 2018, to file a complaint online at https://ag.ny.gov/star-toyota-of-bayside-settlement or via telephone at 1-800-771-7755.
This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Matthew Eubank, under the supervision of Assistant Attorney General In Charge of the Brooklyn Regional Office Michael Barbosa. The Division of Regional Affairs is led by Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs Jill Faber and overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.