Dealership closes without paying off trade-ins

Posted at 7:29 PM, Apr 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-08 00:22:22-04

Nearly two dozen people have reported being ripped off by a Pinellas County used car dealer.

The deals seemed typical enough.

Victims went to Park Auto Mall to buy a vehicle and traded-in their old ride.  Weeks later they found out the dealer never paid off their trade-in before shutting the doors for good.

Ed Stackhouse, a victim, says the transaction went smoothly until two weeks later when the bank started hounding him for payments on a car he no longer owned.

Per Stackhouse’s contract, Park Auto Mall was to pay off his trade-in to the amount of more than $11,000.

However, the bank said the dealer never paid the trade-in amount and now Stackhouse and his family are on the hook for that balance.

The Department of Motor Vehicles reported more than 20 Park Auto Mall customers have filed the same complaint and the state has revoked the car dealers license. But that doesn't solve the problem for the victims.

According to Pinellas County Consumer Protection Chief Doug Templeton, they are currently looking into four complaints.

It's not the first time Park Auto Mall Customers have called ABC Action News over unpaid trade-ins.

Last year the dealership was questioned about another unpaid trade-in which they quickly took care of.

But now that the owner, Fred Najjar, has closed the business and nearly two dozen victims are faced with paying off a loan on a car they no longer own or the possibility of ruining their credit.

Victims can file a claim with the car dealer's surety bond, but it's only a $25,000 dollar bond which won't go far. They are encouraged to file a complaint with Pinellas Consumer Protection.