FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CIV
FRIDAY, APRIL 10, 1998 (202) 616-2765
TDD (202) 514-1888
PENNSYLVANIA CAR DEALER PAYS U.S. $80,000 TO SETTLE DISPUTE
PHILADELPHIA -- A suburban Philadelphia used car dealership has agreed to pay the United States $80,000 in civil penalties and signed a consent decree pledging to halt unlawful practices in the future in settling a suit alleging 51 violations of federal odometer laws, the Department of Justice announced today. The complaint and consent decree were filed simultaneously Thursday.
The John Altimari Auto Co. Inc., of Langhorne, Pennsylvania, and John A. Altimari, the company's president, agreed to pay the penalty and adhere to a permanent court injunction requiring new training, record keeping and disclosure requirements, said Frank W. Hunger, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Civil Division.
The suit was brought after an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Odometer Fraud Staff discovered 51 instances in which the used car dealership failed to properly prepare dealer reassignment forms for cars purchased by Altimari and resold to car dealers in New Jersey. The complaint did not allege that the Altimari dealership rolled back odometers, a federal criminal offense.
However, the Altimari dealership left blank the odometer reading on the required disclosure forms, an omission that makes it easier for a car dealer buying the car to roll back the vehicle's odometer before the car is sold to the ultimate consumer.
"This settlement should send a strong signal to used car dealers that the federal government takes odometer disclosure laws very seriously and is working very hard to protect used car buyers from odometer fraud," said Hunger.
Under federal odometer disclosure laws, car dealerships are required to report a vehicle's odometer reading, date of the sale, and other identifying information on a disclosure form given to the car's buyer each time the car is sold. The law, which carries penalties of up to $2,000 for each violation, is designed to protect persons who might otherwise purchase a car with an altered or reset odometer.
As part of the signed, 10-page comprehensive consent decree submitted Thursday for the approval of U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno of Philadelphia, the car dealership agreed to immediately stop violating all federal odometer laws and regulations; provide all future car buyers with detailed disclosure forms recording each vehicle's odometer reading; adopt a written odometer disclosure policy and submit it for NHTSA's approval; provide mandatory training to all of its employees on federal odometer regulations; adopt a comprehensive records management system; and make annual reports to NHTSA to prove compliance with the consent decree.