Category: Crime & Punishment

By on April 20, 2018

car salesman in car dealership with key, Image: Kzenon/Bigstock

We told you last year of the outrageous case of an Oshawa, Ontario used car salesman who bilked unwitting customers out of their hard-earned cash before being sentenced to a month in jail. Well, a second trial recently adjourned, and Ryen Maxwell of Countryside Motors now faces 180 days in the big house.

A repeat fraudster, this former salesman’s list of financial atrocities is a long one. In addition to causing fiscal hardship for numerous customers, Maxwell’s actions can be credited with causing, or at least contributing to, one woman becoming stranded in a rural snowbank and the breakup of another man’s marriage. Is it any wonder BHPH lots carry a stigma? Read More >

By on April 20, 2018

wells fargo

Wells Fargo is getting slammed with all kinds of penalties over shady business practices. Currently prohibited from growing its business as investigators look into its practices, the bank has restructured itself after it was implicated in widespread auto insurance and mortgage lending abuse in the summer of 2017. It’s also still coping with an earlier scandal involving local branches opening fake accounts for customers.

Last week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency suggested Well Fargo pay $1 billion to “resolve” the governmental probes into those issues. That changed today when the bureau filed a consent order announcing it was time for the bank to pay up.

The fine applies to the mortgage lending issues, as well as Wells Fargo’s past practice of charging thousands of auto loan customers for insurance they didn’t need and often didn’t even know about. The move caused some borrowers to default on their loans, resulting in their vehicles being repossessed. The consent order mandates that the bank remediate those customers.  Read More >

By on April 11, 2018

2015 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel HFE, Image: FCA

When Fiat Chrysler Automobiles regails the class with a “how I spend my summer” story this fall, expect some mention of handing over large sums of money to state and federal governments.

The U.S. Department of Justice and California Air Resources Board want the automaker to make things right after accusing it of polluting the nation’s air via its 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 engines. Some 104,000 Jeep and Ram vehicles from the 2014 to 2016 model years contained emissions control devices not revealed to the Environmental Protection Agency, which came down hard on the automaker after their discovery. According to FCA’s lawyer, the settlement could come this summer.

What does the DOJ want? According to an earlier settlement offer sent to the automaker, the levelling of “very substantial civil penalties” is the only way to ensure FCA learns its lesson. Read More >

By on March 22, 2018

Indiana State Police proudly announced the capture of a speed demon who was ripping down the highway at over twice the legal limit. The diver, 38-year old J. Jesus Duran Sandoval, was allegedly trying to break the sound barrier on the Indiana Toll Road Tuesday evening when he hurtled past an officer at an extremely high rate of speed.

State Trooper Dustin Eggert, who was merging back into traffic after helping a broken down motorist near the 45 mile marker, took chase but found the 707-horsepower Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat difficult to keep up with. At one point he found himself driving 150 miles an hour, noting that the vehicle he was pursuing continued to pull away as he radioed for backup.  Read More >

By on December 20, 2017

used cars used car lot

It’s among the most prolific stereotypes of the automotive world. The shady used car salesman. Often pictured standing next to an overvalued Kia Sephia (a “smokin’ deal!”) while wearing a loud sport coat and white belt, the specter of these fly-by-night fraudsters have plagued reputable dealers for decades.

In Oshawa, Ontario, a city best known for housing General Motors’ Canadian headquarters and a former TTAC managing editor, one such criminal just met his fate. How sweet it must be for the poor buyer he swindled. Read More >

By on December 14, 2017

Detroit Police Car

Four officers from the Detroit Police Department pleaded guilty to extortion charges this week, with another two being indicted, after receiving bribes from body shops looking for stolen and abandoned vehicles obtained by the city. Federal investigators have been looking into the scheme, which involves shops collecting thousands of dollars from insurance companies for unnecessary repairs, for well over a year.

The accused officers are believed to have reported stolen or abandoned vehicles to a single towing company, rather than police dispatch. From there, the towing service would pay them a $50 to $100 “finders fee” before notifying the car’s owner that it had been stolen and sustained unspecified damages. Fortunately, the towing service always knew of a repair shop that would “waive the deductible.”

The cars were then stripped so the claims adjuster could quote the vehicle for thousands of dollars in damages.  Read More >

By on December 8, 2017

public domain

You can’t fight city hall, they say, but you can fight the state of Oregon — and win.

That’s what one man, Mats Järlström, found out after a dogged fight against the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying. The epic constitutional battle, which pitted a former electronics engineer against an overzealous bureaucracy, began when his wife received a ticket for running a red light. Read More >

By on December 7, 2017

VW logo, Image: Volkswagen

The judge didn’t go easy on the former Volkswagen executive. Oliver Schmidt, 48, former general manager of Volkswagen’s U.S. Environment and Engineering Office, was sentenced to seven years in prison and handed a $400,000 fine Wednesday for his role in covering up the automaker’s diesel emissions deception.

Schmidt’s punishment is the maximum allowed under the plea deal he reached in August. The executive pleaded guilty to two charges relating to the conspiracy to violate the country’s Clean Air Act with a fleet of pollution-spewing diesel cars.

“It is my opinion that you are a key conspirator in this scheme to defraud the United States,” U.S. District Judge Sean Cox of Detroit told Schmidt. “You saw this as your opportunity to shine … and climb the corporate ladder at VW.”

The sentencing wraps up a legal saga that began, unpleasantly, as Schmidt sat on a Miami toilet during a vacation stopover. Read More >

By on November 22, 2017

uber volvo

In the midst of Uber Technologies’ corporate restructuring and cultivation of a squeaky-clean new image, the ride-hailing company was apparently hiding a dark secret. Striving for transparency, the company has now confessed that hackers stole the personal information of 57 million customers and drivers in October of 2016.

The coverup, apparently conducted by the firm’s chief security officer and another staff member, involved over $100,000 in payments to the hackers in the hopes to keep them quiet. The data lost included names, email addresses, and phone numbers of around 50 million Uber riders across the globe. Another 7 million drivers were also subjected to the digital attack, with over half a million of those losing their driver’s license numbers.  Read More >

By on October 6, 2017

rowboat, Image: Wikimedia Commons

Some might quibble over where “the limit” should be when we’re talking drunk driving — 0.05, 0.08, 0.10 — but few responsible people would argue against the need for impaired driving legislation. Until smartphones and other distracting electronic accoutrements came along, boozy drivers were the leading cause of carnage on the roads.

Now, many of us our personal vehicle to drive to the lake, the seaside, or perhaps a nearby river, where our boat, be it large or small, awaits. Maybe it’s a canoe or kayak. Maybe — because cabin cruiser dollars are hard to come by — it’s an inflatable mattress or inner tube where you can use your feet for propulsion.

Well, if you reside north of the border and were thinking of popping a few beers and paddling about in your human-powered floatation device (after hearing Canada’s recent announcement that drunk driving laws would no longer apply to unmotorized boats), think again. Special interest groups have intervened, and that law will remain on the books.

Drunk paddling? There goes your Chevrolet. Read More >

By on September 30, 2017

tdiengine

Twenty-seven billion seemed like an odd number, so Volkswagen upped the financial cost of its diesel emissions scandal to an even $30B. Actually, the extra expense comes entirely from the repair of older U.S.-market vehicles, which are proving less easy to fix than anticipated.

Because of this, VW has to rustle up some extra cash. The automaker set aside $26.7 billion to put the scandal behind it, and this latest price jump has the company pole vaulting over that marker.

This isn’t the only new grief facing VW, however. German media and The New York Times are reporting the arrest of the highest-ranking official so far — VW Group’s former powertrain chief. Read More >

By on September 22, 2017

GM

The only people who like towing companies, it seems, are those who make money off them.

A Detroit-area towing company is accused of doing something that will make the rest of us hate towing companies even more, if the allegations are true.

It all started last year, with multiple investigations into Detroit police officers suspected of taking bribes in exchange for giving business to select tow companies.

Nationwide Recovery, the company at the center of this story, sued the city of Detroit in July of this year, claiming that the city pulled its permit illegally. Nationwide claims it had nothing to do with the bribery scheme and so its permit shouldn’t have been revoked. The city of Detroit said that wasn’t true and went to federal court to explain why.

Read More >

By on August 25, 2017

VW logo, Image: Volkswagen

A former Volkswagen engineer who helped federal investigators after being linked to the diesel emissions scandal will cool his heels in an American prison.

U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox sentenced James Liang, 63, to a 40-month term today, tacking on a $200,000 fine for his involvement in the automaker’s diesel deception. Liang is the first Volkswagen employee prosecuted for having a role in the conspiracy. Read More >

By on August 25, 2017

Martin Winterkorn, Image: Volkswagen AG [CC BY 3.0]/Wikimedia Commons

German media is reporting that former Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn, who resigned shortly after the diesel emissions scandal erupted in September 2015, was informed about the company’s emissions cheating in late July of that year — a month before the automaker claims its executive board learned of the issue.

Several media outlets are reporting that a former senior VW quality officer told Winterkorn on July 27, 2015 that the company “cheated,” Reuters reports. Read More >

By on August 19, 2017

FCA sign, Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Federal prosecutors charged a fourth player in the widening United Auto Workers-Fiat Chrysler Automobiles corruption scandal on Friday, providing a clearer picture of how the years-long conspiracy went down.

Virdell King, a former senior UAW official and the first black woman to head a UAW-FCA local, now faces the same charges as three others indicted in the $4.5 million money-funnelling scheme. King, who retired in 2016, served on the board of the scandal-plagued UAW-Chrysler National Training Center — a facility prosecutors claim acted as a money pit for the enrichment of FCA and UAW execs.

In a document filed in U.S. District court in Detroit yesterday, prosecutors allege former FCA vice president Alphons Iacobelli opened the cash taps to UAW brass in an attempt to bribe them into taking “company-friendly positions.” The training center’s funds, earmarked for autoworkers, served as the bank. NTC credit cards apparently made making the lavish purchases a breeze.

“If you see something you want, feel free to buy it,” Iacobelli said, according to the court filing.

Read More >

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