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Elderly woman says she was taken advantage of by car dealer

Miami Auto Wholesale and Export takes car back, doesn't return deposit

MIAMI – An elderly woman claims she was taken advantage of by a Miami car dealer.

The 77-year-old woman said even after the dealer returned her trade-in, took back the car she bought, and resold it, they never returned her cash deposit.

After weeks with trying to work with the dealership turned into months, Esther Verdecia's daughter, Nancy Flores, reached out to "Call Christina" for help.

She also wanted to warn the community about the importance of understanding what you are agreeing to before signing on the dotted line.

While Verdecia only communicated with dealership employees in Spanish, she had to sign the paperwork for the car in English. Flores worried her mom could not understand the documents she was signing.

"Everything that was done there was in Spanish, which is her native language," Flores said. "But everything was signed in English, so she could have been signing her life away and she didn't know."

"She has no clue. That's what I don't understand, why she even went there," Flores said. "I ask her for documents --she has no clue."

When Verdecia came home from the dealership, Flores noticed some irregularities in the paperwork.

The loan application form lists the retiree's monthly income at $4,400. Flores said this figure is grossly inaccurate.

"She doesn't because she lives on social security," she said.

According to the family, the dealership employees said if she wasn't happy, she could return the car and they would refund her $9,200. If that conversation happened, it's not reflected in the paperwork.

The Bill of Sale states in part there is "no cooling off period…you may only cancel the contract if the seller agrees."

Verdecia went back to the dealership to return the car and get her money back.

"(The dealership) took back the car, they gave her her trade-in back," Flores said.

The dealership would not return the deposit at that time, but made an agreement with the family.

"They even told her, 'Well, if we sell the car, we'll call you and we'll give you the money.' (That) didn't happen either."

"The contract also says that if the dealer agrees to cancel, then the transaction is cancelled," consumer protection attorney Jason Weaver said. "Well they took her car back. They even resold it and paid off her loan, so it's pretty clear that the dealer agreed to cancel the agreement anyway regardless of what they discussed before they signed the contract. I think they should pay her the full amount of the deposit, the $9,200."

In Esther's case, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) found the dealer "failed to abide by a written contract" and referred her to the dealer's bond company. The bond company told Flores in an e-mail that the violation related to the "consignment of the sale of the purchased vehicle" and that the family was only entitled to $3,156.

In the past five years, Miami Auto Wholesale and Export has racked up dozens of complaints filed with the Florida Attorney General's office, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

In 14 of the 25 complaints filed with the DHSMV, investigators found the dealer in violation of Florida statute. Of the cases reviewed by Local 10 News, the dealer also worked with investigators to resolve the complaints.

"Everybody is not gonna be a satisfied customer, I do understand that," Flores said. "When you have numerous complaints and there's a trend, there's something going on."

The dealer refused to be interviewed for this story, but the owners expressed interest in working with Nancy and coming to an agreement.

"No deal. We're not doing a deal," Flores said after meeting with dealership owners on the evening of April 21. She did not accept the owner's offer.

Flores wanted to share the lesson learned during this experience: "I think that when they reach a certain age, you as a daughter should be a responsible person to have power of attorney over your parents," Flores said. "Before they do any kind of business transactions, you should be there."