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Dealership agrees to full refund following Call Christina investigation

Owner says he's 'not here to take people's deposit money'

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – A dealership agreed to full refund for a Local 10 News viewer after he decided to "Call Christina."

"I am dealing with a car dealership that refuses to give me back my deposit," said Joshua Feliciano of his experience with the dealership.

Feliciano told Local 10 News investigative reporter Christina Vazquez that Imperial Capital Cars in Hollywood refused to refund the $1,700 cash deposit they requested of him after he decided not purchase a car.

"I'm like, 'No, I didn't want this car. I'm leaving,'" Feliciano said. "I go, 'I'm not signing anything. I want my deposit back.' He's goes, 'No, no, no, that's not how this works.'"

Frustrated, Feliciano called Christina. The dealership eventually agreed to give Feliciano a full refund.

WHAT TO KNOW WHEN SHOPPING FOR A CAR:

  • Get a receipt and read it in full before you give a deposit
  • If you don't agree to the terms, don't give up your money

"We've been in business, like I said, for a very, very long time," Yosef Amuial of Imperial Capital Cars told Local 10. "I've been in this business even prior to my wife's ownership in this business for a very long time. Everybody that's due a deposit refund is given a deposit refund. I'm not here to take people's deposit money. I'm not in the business of doing that. I'm in the business of selling cars and giving customers hopefully what they want, if not other options to suit their needs."

Vazquez uncovered 10 complaints filed with the Florida Department of Highway and Motor Vehicles against the dealership in less than two years.

There are three complaints filed with the Florida Attorney General's Office.

Many of them said the dealership would not refund cash deposits.

Whitney Ray, of the office of the attorney general, told Local 10 News, "We currently have no formal investigation open, but given that the three complaints all relate to the same issue regarding the failure to return deposits, we are looking into the matter further to determine if a formal investigation is warranted."

To understand Feliciano's case you need to know two things:

  • According to Florida Statute 501.976(10): "It is an unfair or deceptive act or practice, actionable under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, for a dealer to: require or accept a deposit from a prospective customer prior to entering into a binding contract for the purchase and sale of a vehicle unless the customer is given a written receipt that states how long the dealer will hold the vehicle from other sale and the amount of the deposit, and clearly and conspicuously states whether and upon what conditions the deposit is refundable or nonrefundable."

    Consumer protection attorney Jason Weaver put it this way: "The law says they can hold somebody's deposit for whatever reason they want; there is only one catch. They have to specifically disclose in writing through a written receipt the conditions that allow them to hold that deposit."

  • Feliciano's receipt from Imperial Capital Cars, Inc., dated Dec. 31, 2014, reads: "In accordance from Florida Statute 501.976(10) of the Rules of the Dept. of Legal Afairs re: Motor Vehicle Sales you are hereby informant that: 1) Your deposit of $1,700 given to the Dealer Imperial Capital on 12/31/14 is non-refundable if you fail to take delivery of the car purchased within 48 hours of the time agreed upon for delivery. The retention of said non-refundable deposit will serve as a payment to the dealer for liquidation damages. It will sustain by holding the purchased vehicle from the other sale. 2) The '04 Infiniti G35 (vehicle) will be held from other sale for 48 hours for the agreed upon delivery time."
  • In an interview, Amuial told Vazquez that they never secured a purchase contract with Feliciano.

    Weaver said at that point they should have refunded him his money based on the language in his written receipt that designated the money as nonrefundable if he failed to take delivery of the car purchased. "You don't pay down payments on cars you don't actually buy," Weaver said.

    "It's not fraud," Amuial said. "He didn't ask for a refund the same day is what I'm explaining to you. The gentleman said he'd come back with his paperwork, take delivery of his vehicle; that didn't happen. He decided to change his mind.

    "I talked to him back and forth about changing his mind to another car because he was concerned about price; that was his biggest concern. And I explained to him the price that you were going for on the BMW is the $8,000. You chose to switch to a different vehicle. Every different vehicle has a different price.

    "He gave a deposit in order to make a commitment for a vehicle. Do you understand? This dealership accumulates expenses on customers we have. We have to do several things that come out of our pocket in order to ensure and help our customers obtain a loan. And we made the effort to obtain the loan for him. We got him approved for a loan and he went forward with putting a deposit down on the vehicle to take it off the market so that he can bring the rest of his paperwork in and take delivery of the vehicle. And we did as he asked.

    "Several days later he came back to us, and I don't know what his change of heart was. We explained to him, 'You know, you asked us to take the vehicle off the market for you. We obtained a loan for you, we have all the documentation. If you want to change of heart and you want to get a different car, you know we are here to service you.'

    "You have to understand, it takes, it takes a lot of work to obtain a loan for people who want to sell prime credit world. It's not that easy. That's what we do here. We obtain loans for the people who don't have the greatest credit. It's not a deposit. It's a deposit given toward the down payment of the loan."

    "In this case, nothing that this man is saying as a reason for why they held the deposit was in that written receipt," Weaver said. "Given that, holding that deposit was illegal."

    Amuial said his dealership did not break the law or commit fraud.

    "He keeps referring to the vehicle as his vehicle, meaning Josh's vehicle, but he also says there is no purchase contract," Weaver said. "He says that he is holding his money because he held his vehicle on the lot. Why would he hold a vehicle on the lot that the consumer has already said, 'I am not purchasing and I don't agree to the price?'

    "There was no reason to hold that vehicle on the lot and there was no permission to do it by that written refund receipt he gave Josh. For whatever crazy, bizarre reason that he wanted to hold Josh's deposit, he needed to say that in the receipt. He did not, he broke the law. It is absolutely fraud, it is absolutely a violation of the law," Weaver said.

    The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles closed the case without citing a violation.

    Amuial said the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has provided him with a new receipt for future transactions.

    "Well, since Mr. Feliciano -- you see that the receipt that has been given -- DMV has assisted us and produced a new receipt to provide customers so that there is no miscommunication, so everybody does understand what it's applied toward (and) how it works," Amuial said. "I have -- from maybe whatever complaints you may have here -- thousands and thousands of satisfied customers with wonderful cars and great loans."

    "They should probably call that new receipt Josh's Receipt, because it basically tracks the circumstances of Josh's case," Weaver said. "It looks like they tailored this receipt to try and avoid making this same mistake in the future with another consumer."

    "We are a good dealership," Amuial said. "We are a small company, we try to do the right thing by customers and you know, hopefully other people can see it our way as well."

    At the time of the interview Amuial said he was willing to give Feliciano a partial refund. Just days after Local 10 spoke with him, state records show Amuial contacted a Florida Department of Highway and Motor Vehicles investigator to say he would be issuing a full refund immediately.

    Yosef Amuial said he is married to the Division of Corporations registered owner of the dealership, Flavia Amuial.

    The first time Vazquez approached the dealership, someone who was inside locked the doors. A man identifying himself as Serafin Debesa approached the camera. He said no one was hiding from her camera but rather no one was there because there had been a power outage. He eventually said that someone was inside after Vazquez pointed out that she could see a person on the telephone in the window behind him. At that point he still could not explain why someone locked the doors. He was also unclear about what his role was with the dealership.

    In January, Debesa posted a commercial for the dealership on YouTube. He told Local 10 News he "does some work" for the dealership.

    Feliciano said the person he was primarily dealing with was a man named Mike, who identified himself as the dealership's finance manger, but did not provide a last name. In investigative reports prepared by the Florida Department of Highway and Motor Vehicles, the last name of a manager by the name of Mike is identified as Hoss or Hese."

    Follow Christina Vazquez on Twitter @CallChristinaTV

    Follow Local 10 News on Twitter @WPLGLocal10