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Car dealership gets $5,000 fine

FARMINGTON – A Washington, Mo-based car dealership that twice set up shop in Bonne Terre has been fined $5,000.

In addition to the fine, the permanent injunction, signed Friday by Associate Circuit Judge James H. Kelly prohibits Washington Professional Automotive Group Inc., also known as Fairway Auto Sales/Fleet Liquidators, from distributing advertisements with representations that any sales are being conducted by Fleet Liquidators; are IRS sales; and &#8220absolutely end” on any date other than the actual end date of the sale; allow purchasers to pay zero sales tax.

It also orders the business not to engage in any conduct that violates the rules and regulations that govern the sale of automobiles.

The $5,000 fine will be paid to the state’s Merchandising Practices Revolving Fund to reimburse the Attorney General for fees and costs incurred in the office’s investigation and enforcement of the Merchandising Practices Act, and to provide funds for consumer education and advocacy programs.

While the car dealership did agree to these terms, the permanent injunction states, &#8220nothing contained in this consent judgment of permanent injunction shall be construed as an admission on the part of the defendants that they have engaged in any misrepresentation or other violation …”

The car dealership has sold vehicles at temporary off-site locations in Missouri. They have twice set up shop in Bonne Terre, the first for a three-day sale, and the second, a 10-day sale, in January.

The temporary injunction had prohibited the business from engaging in the sale of automobiles at any place other than their primary location in Washington, Mo. The permanent injunction does not make such an order.

The Attorney General’s Office complaints were about the dealerships’ advertisements.

The office alleged that the name, Fleet Liquidators, is not registered with the Missouri Secretary of State and did not appear on any business license the defendants obtained for the site in Bonne Terre. The business license, which is good from Nov. 7, 2005, to June 30, 2006, lists the business as Washington Professional Automotive Group Inc./Fairway Auto Sales.

The court document alleged the business misrepresented themselves as Fleet Liquidators, rather than a Missouri dealership.

Most of the allegations center around claims in thousands of fliers that were circulated to area residents. The document alleged the company misled customers to believe they were purchasing liquidated vehicles owned by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), &#8220presumably seized from individuals owing back taxes.”

The office stated the business has no affiliation with the off-site sale and none of the vehicles were owned or provided by the IRS.

While the flier stated it was a three-day only sale, the sale in Bonne Terre lasted 10 days, beginning Jan. 25 and ending Feb. 3.

The document also referenced the flier’s claim that purchasers will pay zero sales tax on any used vehicle during the sale dates. The office stated it is unlawful for an automobile dealer to pay sales tax on behalf of a purchaser.

The office also had concerns about the business’ claim that the bearer of each flier was a guaranteed winner of a cash prize, ranging from $5 to $20,000.

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