Gaston County dealership faces allegations of falsifying consumers’ income and information to sell cars

Updated: May. 8, 2019 at 6:34 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Tiffany Crockett contacted WBTV Investigates after her mom bought a new car from Kia of Gastonia.

“She walked out with a 2018 Kia Soul,” Crockett said.

At a cost of $679 a month it was more than she could afford. But Crockett says the dealership came up with a solution. In her complaint with the Attorney General’s office Crockett says the dealership offered her mom a check.

“That was to give her $5,000 cash to offset her payment and if she made a payment on time with the money they gave to her she could refinance at the end of the year,” Crockett said.

But Melanie Bull with Legal Aid North Carolina says the dealership can’t make that promise.

“From our understanding they are intending to deceive,” Bull said.

“They know that that’s not true and they’re intending to deceive the customer because they want them to buy that car.”

Bull says their office has received five separate complaints from consumers about Kia of Gastonia and there are plenty of other complaints in other places.

WBTV found 11 separate complaints for 17 different customers filed with the North Carolina Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission and the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles.

“I was lied to and manipulated,” Joyce Parks told WBTV.

Parks, Baxter Hansen and Darlene and Donnie Ensley all filed complaints with the North Carolina Department of Justice.

They all wrote the sales staff at Kia promised them they could refinance their car loans.

“Yeah it was refinancing come back in about six months,” Donnie Ensley said.

But the similarities don’t stop there.

Crockett’s mother has an income of less than a $1,000 a month but she left the dealership with a monthly payment of$679. Crockett wondered why a bank would ever approve that loan so she got a copy of the credit application.

Crockett provided WBTV a copy of the application that showed her mom’s income was listed as $4,600 a month. In her complaint to state agencies Crockett claimed that her mom never approved of that information and that it was falsified by the dealership.

Parks, Hansen and the Ensley’s also provided WBTV with copies of credit applications showing their incomes were falsified.

Legal Aid attorney Melanie Bull says customers are consistently complaining about this issue.

“They’re telling us when they get their applications they’re seeing that the income that they told the sales rep is grossly inflated sometimes as much as 400 percent,” Bull said.

WBTV did some digging and found that all these customers worked with a third party sales team Kia of Gastonia hired called Integrity Automotive Promotionsm which is listed in some of their complaints. The owner of Integrity, Brian Leachman told WBTVover the phone “Any final paperwork that is signed, is signed by the dealership. Nobody from Integrity Automotive Promotions does any financial work with the customers.”

Kia of Gastonia General Manager Ken Myers responded to consumers’ complaints to the NCDOJ by writing that that the customers were “having remorse over the purchase” but that the dealership is unaware of any verbal promises made during a deal and that they all signed the credit application.

“I have no idea how they got my signature like that without my knowledge but they did,” Parks said.

In at least two cases WBTV found not only was the income falsified but the car as well. In their complaint with NCDOJ the Ensley’s say they bought a standard 2016 Nissan Rogue from Kia of Gastonia. But the credit application says the car was equipped with a power sunroof, a navigation system and other premium features. A search on Kelley Blue Book shows the Ensley’s paid the price of the premium vehicle and not the standard one they actually bought.

Now customers’ car buying opportunities are limited. Parks and Hansen say the sales team at Kia of Gastonia and Integrity Automotive Promotions told them they should voluntarily let their car be repossessed. Their credit took the hit. Crockett says her mom could no longer afford the car payments and her Kia Soul was repossessed.

“The car is gone and she’s left with nothing. She went to the dealership with a car, got a new car and she has nothing now,” Crockett said.

The owner of Kia of Gastonia Chirs Hafer declined WBTV’s interview request. Over the phone he gave this statement.

“At the time while I was recovering from heart surgery some alleged irregularities took place at Kia of Gastonia. I was made aware of these issue, I have attempted to resolve those issues and have been involved with and cooperated with all investigations. I am unable to comment further due to privacy laws and the investigation.”

The Federal Trade Commission and US Attorneys office would not tell us if they’re investigating.

Legal Aid North Carolina is requesting that if you’ve had a similar issue with the dealership you call them at (866) 219-5262.

You can call WBTV Investigates and share your story at 704-374-3511.

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