In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, scammers had a field day. There were people touting fake Sandy charities, fraudulent contractors who took money and left jobs half-done, or not done at all, and even a Queens woman who allegedly lied about losing her home during the storm to score almost a year of free hotel stays.
Bay Ridge Nissan, according to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, had a simpler con: promising special prices for anyone who’d lost their car during Sandy and wanted to replace it with a brand-new Nissan. The AG’s office announced today that the dealership would pay $100,000 in restitution for the Sandy scam and various other deceptive business practices. Of that, $48,341 will go to 15 individual customers, and $50,000 will go to the state as a penalty.
And if you’re wondering what the Sandy scam looked like, well, Bay Ridge Nissan is still advertising it on their website.
Bay Ridge Nissan still has an advertisement up for what they’re calling the Nissan Hurricane Relief Program. The dealership used a FEMA logo in its advertising, and promised special employee pricing to people or businesses “sustaining vehicle damage or a total loss.” It looks like this:
Nissan evidently advertised similar deals at dealerships in eleven other northeastern states following the storm (although none of them besides Bay Ridge used the FEMA emblem). To date, none of those other businesses have been fined for those advertisements. In the case of Bay Ridge, it looks like the problem was less targeting Sandy victims, and more that they made a habit of adding “unwanted aftermarket items” to customers’ contracts, like extra warranties and insurance fees.
The dealership was fined for a laundry list of other unsavory business practices, according to a press release from the AG:
[P]ublishing misleading advertisements on Craigslist.com; false advertisements targeting consumers who lost their vehicles in Hurricane Sandy; misrepresenting the terms of sale and financing during sales negotiations; adding the costs of unwanted aftermarket items into contracts and financing agreements; misrepresenting that aftermarket items were required by particular lenders; misrepresenting the consumers’ ability to cancel some aftermarket contracts and services after the completion of a transaction; falsely telling consumers that purchases had dealership-financing requirements; failing to return consumer down payments in a timely manner when transactions fell through, and failing to provide consumers with copies of their sales and financing documents.
Bay Ridge Nissan has scored itself an F from the Better Business Bureau and a host of unflattering reviews on sites like Yelp and Ripoff Report, who use words like “crooks” and “liars” and “THE FREAKIN WORST.” And, we suspect, they will find themselves in a tad more trouble if they don’t stop advertising that very special Sandy deal.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 28, 2014