GALLUP – The Federal Trade Commission has reached a $ 450,000 settlement with the owner and manager of a now defunct auto dealership group that allegedly cheated consumers into selling, leasing and financing automobiles in Arizona and New Mexico.

Richard Berry, owner and director of Tate’s Auto Group, has accepted payment and other stipulations about misrepresenting parts of the vehicle buying process, primarily financing, according to an FTC press release.

Berry was one of two people accused of falsifying consumer income and down payment information to fund vehicles at dealerships under the Tate name in Gallup and Winslow, Holbrook and Show Low in Arizona. They are also accused of illegal advertising.

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The FTC filed its 2018 lawsuit against Berry and Linda Tate, owner and president of Tate’s Auto, in the U.S. District Court in Arizona.

The press release says that if the district court approves the settlement, the FTC would receive payment from Berry and close the deal.

The regulation also prohibits Berry from distorting document information associated with a consumer’s purchase, financing or lease of a vehicle and from distorting costs or anything else related to vehicle financing.

The location of Gallup's former Tate Automotive Center can be seen on July 30 from West Jefferson Avenue in Gallup.

He is also required to provide clients with sufficient time to review and obtain copies of the financing documents. The settlement included a stipulated termination of Linda Tate.

A. Daniel Coumides, one of Berry’s attorneys, did not comment on the settlement when it was concluded on July 30.

The 31-page complaint described practices used at the four dealerships to deceive consumers – the majority of whom were members of the Navajo Nation – into purchasing vehicles.

An example of the complaint was that a customer told Tate’s Auto that she had a fixed monthly income of about $ 1,200 and, unbeknownst to her, the dealership had inflated her income to $ 5,200 on the finance documents. .

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Another example of alleged wrongdoing involved a consumer who was unemployed but making between $ 100 and $ 200 from the sale of jewelry.

This client stated that her financing request incorrectly claimed that she had a monthly income of $ 3,889 from a business where she did not work.

“When Berry auto dealers falsified income and down payment information to qualify people for loans they couldn’t afford to repay, they left people in failure – including default. payment, repossession and ruin of credit. That’s why the FTC has sued Berry and its dealers, “Samuel Levine, acting director of the FTC’s Office of Consumer Protection, said in the press release.

In 2014, the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission released a report assessing abuse by Navajo consumers when purchasing vehicles from dealerships in border towns.

The report said the Human Rights Commission had received more complaints about Tate’s Auto than any other dealership.

The commission shared the findings of its report with the FTC, which helped detail Tate’s Auto’s alleged abuses.

The commission encourages Navajo consumers to take the time necessary to make a decision while making a major purchase, as it may take years to obtain a corrective action to obtain a definitive answer. The commission hopes that a certain amount Money from the Tate settlement will flow to Navajo consumers from inappropriate Tate’s Auto transactions, ”said Leonard Gorman, executive director of the Office of Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for the Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at [email protected]

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