Consumers of Spinella’s Enterprises Purchased Cars & Drove Off the Lot, Only to Find Out They Never Really Owned the Cars

SYRACUSE - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that a former Central New York used car dealer has begun making payments to the Attorney General's office to reimburse his customers after a court order required he pay restitution and penalties. The order also bars the dealer, Anthony Spinella, Jr., from ever owning and/or operating a car dealership in the State of New York.

An investigation by the Attorney General’s office began after the dealership, Spinella's Enterprises located on Brewerton Road, in Mattydale, abruptly closed its doors in November, 2009. Consumers were left with cars they could not register, loans that had not been paid and extended warranties that had never been activated. As a result, some of the cars were repossessed by banks because of outstanding loans.

"Mr. Spinella's illegal actions left Syracuse-area consumers owing thousands of dollars for cars they no longer possessed," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "My office is here to protect consumers in Central New York and throughout the state, and will make examples of any unscrupulous businesses that display a total disregard to honest business practices."

The investigation revealed that dozens of consumers fell victim to Spinella's actions, including:

A soldier, serving in the Army, traded in his Ford F-150 to purchase a GMC Yukon. Mr. Spinella failed to pay off the outstanding lien on the Ford and consequently the consumer owed over $12,000 to his bank. In addition, the consumer's Yukon was repossessed by the prior owner's bank because Spinella had not paid off the previous bank lien.
Another consumer bought two vehicles and traded in two vehicles. Mr. Spinella was supposed to pay off the loans for both trades, but only paid off one vehicle. The consumer's bank repossessed the traded in vehicle from Spinella's lot and forgave the rest of the consumer's loan.
Another consumer, who purchased a vehicle from Spinella that had an unpaid lien, was unable to obtain title to his vehicle. The prior owner’s bank repeatedly contacted him, threatening repossession of the vehicle.
Another soldier, who is currently serving in Afghanistan, traded in his 2005 Ford-150 in order to purchase another vehicle. Mr. Spinella failed to pay off the loan on the F-150. Although the consumer's bank repossessed the vehicle and has re-sold it, it is demanding more than $14,000 in legal fees and repossession costs.

Numerous consumers paid between $800 and $2,000 for extended warranties that Mr. Spinella failed to activate. The Attorney General's Office urges consumers who purchased cars from Spinella's Auto Sales to check with their warranty companies to confirm that they have a current policy. Consumers who paid for policies that were never activated must file a complaint with the Attorney General's Office by May 19, 2011 in order to be eligible for restitution.

The Attorney General's lawsuit alleged deceptive business practices, fraudulent practices and violations of New York State laws, including the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law. The Consent Order, issued by Onondaga County Supreme Court Justice Donald A. Greenwood, prohibits Anthony Spinella Jr. from ever owning or operating a car dealership in New York State and requires that Spinella’s Enterprises, Inc. pay $122,709 in restitution to 48 consumers for a variety of reasons, including failure to pay off liens on vehicles that were traded, selling used vehicles that did not have clear title, failing to activate warranties purchased by consumers and/or charging DMV registration fees without registering the vehicles.

It also requires that he make monthly payments to the Attorney General’s Office until all amounts owed to consumers for restitution are paid back. A $25,000 surety bond obtained by Spinella has been turned over to the Attorney General’s Office and restitution will be distributed, pro-rata, to the 48 consumers identified in the Court’s Order. The company will also pay more than $25,000 to the state in civil penalties and costs.

Individuals who have not yet filed a complaint with the Attorney General’s office and who believe they were a victim of deceptive business practices should immediately contact Attorney General Schneiderman’s Syracuse Office at (315) 448-4848.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Judith Malkin of the Syracuse Regional Office under the supervision of Ed Thompson, Assistant Attorney General in Charge of the Syracuse Regional Office. Andrea Burnham, Senior Investigator in the Syracuse Regional Office assisted in the investigation.

Attorney General Schneiderman acknowledged the cooperation of the state Department of Motor Vehicles in the Investigation and the assistance of the Regional Directors of Vehicle Safety James P. McGill and Timothy Furlong.