Tag: Consumer advocacy

Defrauded by a dealership and can’t afford to sue? There’s another way to get compensation: Make a claim against the dealership’s surety bond.

Did you buy a vehicle from a local dealership only to find out later you were defrauded in some way? Can’t afford an attorney to help?

Fortunately, there’s another, completely unpublicized way car buyers can get compensation for a fraudulent deal committed by a dealership.

Surety bonds

Colorado law requires every licensed motor vehicle dealer to carry a surety bond. The bond is meant to protect customers from fraudulent business practices.

A surety bond guarantees financial compensation to customers who incur monetary loss as a result of an auto dealer’s fraud, negligence or failure to comply with all of Colorado’s laws and ethical guidelines that govern the sale of vehicles.  In order to get a dealer’s license from the state, all dealerships must purchase a surety bond to the amount of $50,000. Individual salespeople must also be bonded, to the amount of $15,000.

If you have evidence that a dealership committed fraud in your deal, for example if you found forged signatures on contracts or agreements, found extra charges were added were to your contract without your knowledge, the dealership submitted false information about your finances and the vehicle you were buying to lenders on your credit application (like inflating your gross salary or the length of time you’ve lived at your current residence, or claimed to lenders that your vehicle has fancier features like leather seats and a sunroof when it doesn’t), or if you were charged a higher interest rate than expected on your loan without your knowing, or if you were charged a higher price than the advertised price, or if the dealer told you had to buy additional products in order to buy the vehicle you wanted, or if the dealership submitted fake utility bills in your name to lenders, you can make a claim against the dealership’s surety bond to recoup the loss you incurred from the fraud.

Above is an excerpt from a 2023 lawsuit (pdf) brought by a Grand Junction couple against Red Rock Auto/Red Rock Hyundai describing how they discovered Red Rock Hyundai had fabricated XCel and AT&T bills in their names to include with the credit application for a loan on their vehicle. Neither one of the couple has an AT&T account.

How to file a claim against a dealership’s surety bond:

1) Identify the insurer that sold the dealer the bond**,

2) Contact the insurer and ask them to tell you their procedure for filing a claim,

3) Gather evidence of the fraud, for example the documents from your sale, your credit application, dates and times the fraud happened, the names of employees involved, copies of your signature if you think your signature was forged, a full description of what happened, the amount of money you are out because of the deal and the basis for the figure, and submit it all to the insurer with a letter saying “Dealership [fill in name]” defrauded you and you want to make a claim against the dealership’s surety bond.

The insurer will investigate your claim and pay you after they verify the facts of the case.

**How do you find out which insurer holds a dealership’s surety bond?

It’s public information that’s buried on the Auto Industry Division’s website. Here’s how to find it:

  1. Go to sbg.colorado.gov/auto-industry
  2. Scroll down to the blue “Quick Links” bar and click on it for the drop-down menu.
  3. Click on the link for”Active Facility License Listings.”
  4. In the bulleted sentence right below the page title, click on the blue link for “Active License Lookup.”
  5. In the Active License Lookup web form, click the blue link in the third bulleted sentence that says “Click here to search for a facility instead of a person.”
  6. In the facility search form, type the name of the dealership. [Hint: For the best result, use broad search criteria. For example, if you’re looking for Red Rock Nissan, just type “Red Rock.” If you’re looking for Grand Valley Auto, just type “Grand Valley.”]
  7. Mug shot of Tiffany Momilani Miller, former Red Rock GMC financial manager, who was arrested for forgery, criminal impersonation and identity theft last year

    In the search result box, click on the blue name of the dealership.

  8. Scroll down to the dealership’s “License Bond Information.” You’ll see the name of the company that holds the bond for the dealership, and the bond number, which is like an insurance policy number.
  9. Put the name of the bond issuing company into a Google search to get the company’s contact information. Call the company and ask them to tell you their process to file a claim against a dealership’s surety bond.

Above is the page on the Colorado Department of Revenue’s Auto Industry website with the surety bond information for Red Rock Hyundai, naming the bond company and the bond number.

Surety bonds protect customers from financial losses they incur from doing business with an unscrupulous auto dealer. It’s free to file a claim against a dealer’s surety bond, so if you were defrauded in the course of buying a car, file a claim to get compensation for the fraudulent deal. The bond company will pay you and then seek reimbursement from the dealer.

Also…Report the fraud to law enforcement

Dealers that use fraudulent practices will continue doing so until they get caught and sent to jail, because they make a lot of money off such crimes.

First, report the crime to the Colorado Dealer Board by filing an electronic complaint online with the Colorado Department of Revenue’s Auto Industry Division. 

So far, the City of Grand Junction has had the best track record of arresting bad actors in the car dealerships here. The Grand Junction Police Department Financial Crimes Reporting form is here.(pdf)  If you were the victim of fraud at a

Local TV ad by Red Rock Auto

dealership inside city limits, fill out the G.J.P.D.’s financial fraud packet, file it with the G.J.P.D., meet with a cop to explain how you were defrauded, and include a copy of your fraud packet with the documents you send to the surety bond company.

You can also report the crime to the Colorado state Attorney General as an automotive complaint and write reviews on sites like Google Reviews, Yelp, Cars.com, the Better Business Bureau, etc.

The more records you make of the crime and the more such crimes get reported, the better off everyone will be, and the easier it will be to make a solid case to the surety bond provider so you can get your money back. And it’s free to do all of this, except for the time it takes to do it.

Note that all of the crimes in the following video have been committed locally by a notorious auto dealer that has five stores in Grand Junction, so it pays to know how to make a claim against a dealer’s surety bond to get compensation for a financial rip off:

Arm yourself with factual information before purchasing a used or new vehicle

Consumer Reports’ April, 2024 issue, “Best and Worst Cars, Trucks and SUVs.” THIS is where to get truly honest and complete vehicle reviews. Consumer Reports is a nonprofit organization devoted solely to helping American consumers. They accept no advertising or free products, their evaluations are done by teams of experienced experts and by compiling information on the actual experiences of hundreds of thousands of vehicle owners, and there are NO fake reviews, EVER.

Many Mesa County residents have related their nightmare of buying a used vehicle from a dealer only to have major problems with it shortly after purchase: the transmission goes out, it starts burning excessive oil, the check engine light comes on, the vehicle starts making weird noises and in one instance the entire engine needed to be replaced. These are just some of the complaints. Many people buy extended warranties when purchasing used cars in an attempt to alleviate worry about such problems, but often find these warranties useless as dealers often count on people not reading and fully understanding the limitations of the warranties, or dealers try to weasel out of paying for expensive repairs, especially repeated repairs, because they’ll lose money. Because the Lemon Law only applies to new vehicles, used car buyers are often left holding the bag for thousands of dollars in repairs with no recourse.

There is a way to stack the odds in your favor when buying a new or used car though, and that is by arming yourself with impartial data about the reliability of different makes, models and years of cars.

Local owner of Red Rock Auto pushed out

Bryan Knight, the now former part-owner of Red Rock Auto dealerships

The sole local owner of the Red Rock Auto dealership chain, Bryan Knight, has been pushed out of the company.

Documents from the Colorado Department of Revenue show Mr. Knight, who oversaw the Red Rock dealerships and had long been listed as a partner and minority owner of the Red Rock GMC and Honda stores, is no longer an owner of record for any Red Rock stores.

The rumor that Mr. Knight had been pushed out of Red Rock Auto came on January 19, when someone in the local auto industry contacted AnneLandmanBlog to say “Bryan Knight no longer works at Red Rock.”

Rumor: In a reversal, Red Rock got fleeced by a customer

Buyer Beware: Mesa County does not license homebuilders, and state law makes it hard to hold builders accountable

BAD DECISIONS – Mesa County Commissioners approved construction of this Redlands home years ago in which setbacks were inadequate to save the house from sliding down the bluff towards the Colorado River. Mesa County does not license home builders and county building codes and inspections were inadequate to prevent this situation.

If you are planning to build or buy a newly-built home in Mesa County, be forewarned that Mesa County has no licensing requirements for homebuilders and Colorado laws make it hard to hold home builders accountable when things go wrong, and lots can go wrong.

Soils report at heart of lawsuit against Cody Davis & Chronos Builders recommended alternative foundations, but plaintiffs say Davis never disclosed the report to them as Colorado law requires

Swelling clay soils can triple their volume when they get wet, causing them to exert tremendous force on a home’s foundation, and hence damage, if no measures are taken to mitigate the potential damage. Clay soils are very common across Mesa County. [Click photo to enlarge for better view.] (Photo: Colorado Geological Survey)

The geotechnical soils investigation (pdf) done on a building lot on Horseshoe Drive in Fruita where Mesa County Commissioner Cody Davis and his construction company, Chronos Builders, built a spec home in 2015-2016 stated clearly that expansive clay soils were present on the site and that “Based upon our experience with the Mancos shale in the vicinity of the site, the shale is anticipated to be slightly to moderately expansive.”

Michael A. Berry, the professional engineer who authored the report, recommended three types of foundations that would better protect the structure from “heave related movements” than a typical shallow foundation, but also admitted such foundations are “usually cost prohibitive.”

FTC finalizes CARS Rule to combat Red Rock-style auto sales scams that have plagued customers

Last minute update: The FTC’s CARS Rule, which is the subject of this article and was intended to put a stop to shady dealerships’ worst abuses of customers, was scheduled to go into effect July 30, 2024, but was officially postponed (pdf) on January 18, 2024 as a result of lobbying by the Texas Automobile Dealers Association and the National Automobile Dealers Association, which oppose the rule.

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On December 12, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) finalized the Combating Auto Retail Scams rule (CARS) to end the most common abuses that dealerships like Red Rock Auto in Grand Junction have long perpetrated on customers when selling cars. The CARS Rule was scheduled to go into effect on July 30, 2024. [See above last minute update].

Cody Davis and his construction company embroiled in lawsuit for fraudulent concealment, misrepresentation & negligence

The home on Horseshoe Drive in Fruita that is at the heart of the lawsuit against Cody Davis and his company, Chronos Builders. (Photo: Mesa County Assessor)

Update 1/19/24@10:44 a.m. — This article has been updated to include links to the full Huddleston Berry soils report (pdf) that Davis is alleged to have withheld from the Ryans while they were buying the home, and the full affidavit of Barbara Ann Ryan (pdf) in the case.

Update: Mesa County Commissioner Cody Davis announced Jan. 16 that he was running to be county commissioner again in 2024

Mesa County Commissioner Cody Davis, and his construction company, Chronos Builders, LLC, were slapped with a lawsuit by an older couple on August 19, 2022 alleging Davis concealed information about expansive clay soils under their new home, and saying he chose an inferior foundation he knew could fail protect the home from damage caused by ground movement from the clay soils. The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $100,000 (pdf).

Davis filed a response on September 6, 2022 (pdf) categorically denying all of the charges in the Ryans’ suit.

Residential trash services vary widely in cost

City of Grand Junction garbage truck

Thinking of shopping for a new residential trash service? There may be good reason.

Republic Services recently bought Monument Waste and Rocky Mountain Sanitation, but the consolidation of the companies reduced competition and did NOT result in lower prices for customers.

The following prices are for one 96 gallon can, picked up once a week in the 81505 zip code, in 2023:

Waste Management ….. $40.74/month

Republic Services ….. $43.56/month for the first year, plus a $50.00 deposit, plus $15 to deliver the can, and after the first year the rate increases to $48.00/month

City of Grand Junction trash service ….. $19.75/month, and they supply the can.

There is a privately owned service called 970 Trash Wizard, but their routes are full and they aren’t currently accepting new customers.

The City of Grand Junction only services residences inside City limits, but they are by far the most efficient, with one operator driving an automated truck that hoists, empties and replaces each can automatically, without any wear and tear on a human being. The City is also implementing a new residential recycling service as well, phasing it in area by area, which will allow customers to recycle plastics #1, #2 and #5, as well as fibers like newspaper, clean cardboard, magazines and egg cartons, all for no extra cost for trash customers.

A former Red Rock sales & finance employee tells how employees are treated, and how it affects customers

We’ve already seen that Red Rock auto dealerships in Grand Junction have drawn more than 15 times the complaints to the Auto Industry Division of other new car dealerships in town over the last two years, and that they used illicit sales tactics that sent many hard-working customers into desperate downward financial spirals. The Better Business Bureau slapped red alerts on several Red Rock dealerships due to “a pattern of complaints” about their contracts, service departments, and customer service.

By comparison, non-Red Rock new car dealerships in G.J., like Western Slope Auto, Bozarth Chevrolet, Grand Junction Subaru & Volkswagen, and Grand Junction Chrysler Jeep Dodge logged no customer complaints within the same time frame. This begs the question of why is there such a big difference between how Red Rock has operated, and how these other dealerships operate?

It’s a bad time to go to the Main Post Office

Note taped in the window of the downtown Post Office on Friday, June 23, telling people about technical difficulties and delays.

If you’re thinking about heading to the downtown Grand Junction Post Office, you might want to think again.

If you do decide to go, bring cash or checks for your transaction.

About six weeks ago the Post Office changed their internet provider to Verizon, and now their internet is frequently down. When it does work, it is extremely slow, according to postal workers. Lines are long and the bogged-down computer systems are causing lost revenue and angry customers.

Harry Faulkner’s Red Rock nightmare

Red Rock Hyundai, 2162 Highway 6 And 50, between Fruita and Grand Junction

UPDATE, Monday, August 7: Red Rock Hyundai fixed the cracked windshield and Harry finally took possession of his 2023 Kona, but it had a dent in the fender that occurred either when they were fixing the windshield or applying the clear bra/window tint. Harry also discovered today that there is an urgent recall on his vehicle over a faulty oil pump that can cause fires. Owners of 2023 Konas are being advised to park their vehicles away from structures due to the fire hazard. The NHTSA says there is currently no repair available for the faulty part. 

UPDATE: June 24, 2023 – Harry left the new, red Kona in the care of the dealership so they could have a clear bra and window tint added to it, and Harry reported on June 24, 2023 that Red Rock Hyundai had called him to tell him there was a crack in the windshield of his new car that they believe is a manufacturer defect. The car is currently awaiting a new windshield.

At age 53, Harry Faulkner of Rifle thought he was finally doing well enough financially that he could afford a brand new car, the first one in his life. So in October, 2021, he went to Red Rock Hyundai in Grand Junction and proudly bought a brand new 2022 Hyundai Venue.

That began an extended nightmare that took a year and eight months to resolve.

His story would have been comical in a Keystone Cops kind of way, if it hadn’t been so stressful, expensive and frustrating for Harry.

Red Rock Kia charging customers more for paying cash

You used to get a better deal if you could pay cash. At Red Rock dealerships, it’s now the opposite.

Red Rock Kia is advertising a 2018 Nissan Murano on Facebook Marketplace with two different prices: one if a customer finances the car, and another almost $900 higher for customers who  pay cash.

The ad points to the financed price, and crows “Saves money!”

Come on, Red Rock. We’re not idiots.

Any form of financing will cost a buyer far more than they can ever save on this deal.

Even under the best circumstances, for example a customer who finances $27,000, has an excellent credit score and a 48 month loan at a 5% interest rate, after adding taxes and fees to the deal, the interest on that loan will cost at least $3,350.

Small potatoes compared to the what Red Rock wants to charge people who pay cash.

It’s legal for them to do this. After all, they’re telling you about it right up front, as they should

But that also gives people the ability to vote with their feet by patronizing businesses that don’t discriminate against customers based on form of payment.

Red Rock gets over 15x the complaints of other major G.J. auto dealers, but only slaps on the wrist by the state Auto Industry Division

An open records request to the Colorado Department of Revenue Auto Industry Division (AID) seeking all complaints submitted about the major Grand Junction auto dealerships over the last two years showed no complaints were submitted against Western Slope Auto, which sells Ford, Lincoln & Toyota, no complaints were submitted against Ed Bozarth Chevrolet & Buick, no complaints were submitted against Grand Junction Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram, and no complaints were submitted against Jim Fuoco Motors or Fuoco Honda in 2021, before it was sold to Red Rock Auto Group in April of 2022, but within the last two years at least 15 complaints were submitted about Red Rock Auto Group’s stores. There were at least two more complaints beyond the 15 documented ones the Auto Industry Division sent that were submitted against Red Rock, but one of them was still undergoing investigation and they could not release information on it, and the other was dismissed after the complainant chose not to pursue it further. Another complaint against Red Rock was submitted to the Colorado State Attorney General, who is investigating it. This makes a total of 18 known complaints lodged against Red Rock Auto Group stores in Grand Junction in the last 2 years.

Better Business Bureau puts red alert notice on Red Rock dealerships

These days, if you visit the Better Business Bureau web pages for Red Rock Hyundai, Nissan and Kia, you’ll see a red warning at the top of the page like this:

BBB has “conducted a file review and found that this company has a pattern of complaints alleging contract issues and customer service issues. Specifically, consumers have alleged contract issues with requests to remove items from their contract. Issues with receiving inconsistent information for vehicle repairs. And receiving delayed responses for assistance and complaints.”

Lead contamination a concern for new Ascent Classical Academy charter school, which plans to open in August at the former Rocky Mountain Gun Club building

 The former Rocky Mountain Gun Club building at 545 31 Road, where Ascent Classical Academy plans to open a new charter school this August. The sale of the building closed recently. It was listed for $7 million.
Ascent Classical Academy, a new charter school, plans to open in Grand Junction in August, 2023, in the building at 545 31 Road, that was formerly the Rocky Mountain Gun Club.
Parents contemplating sending their kids to this school should be concerned.
The building was used as an indoor shooting range for seven years, closing in 2021.
Lead contamination is a well-established problem at shooting ranges.


Derec Shuler, CEO of Ascent Classical Academies, in 2018 (Photo: YouTube)
Every time a bullet is fired, a puff of fine lead dust is emitted that gets onto floors, walls, countertops, door handles, the shooter’s clothing and, at indoor shooting ranges, into the ventilation system. Lead particles can be inhaled and ingested with food and drink. Elevated blood lead levels have repeatedly been found in recreational shooters who visit shooting ranges regularly, as well as employees of these ranges. Being exposed to lead contamination on an ongoing basis can have dire health effects. Professional remediation of these sites is an absolute necessity before they can be safely used for other activities.
The adverse effects of lead contamination on human health, especially on children, are well-documented.
According to the World Health Organization’s fact sheet on lead poisoning, “there is no level of exposure to lead that is known to be without harmful effects.”
WHO writes:
Young children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead and can suffer profound and permanent adverse health impacts, particularly on the development of the brain and nervous system. Lead also causes long-term harm in adults, including increased risk of high blood pressure and kidney damage.
This situation should be of concern to parents contemplating sending their kids to this school, especially since the District 51 School Board’s conservative majority voted recently to cede control of the charter school to the Charter School Institute, an out of town, state-level organization, as a way to bypass local input and forego control over it.
No one is taking responsibility or answering questions about possible lead contamination at the site.
I contacted ReMax realtor Amy Rogers, whose name appeared in an online ad for the old Rocky MountainGun Club building. Rogers said she was not the listing agent for the property, and said “It is always the buyer’s responsibility to do the due diligence. Perhaps reach out to the buyer?” She gave me the number of the selling agent, Ray Ricard, but Mr. Ricard did not return a voicemail left on March 21 asking for contact information for the buyer. I also left a voicemail on 3/21 for the CEO of Ascent Classical Academies, Derec Shuler, at (720) 728-6300, ext. 1, the number posted online, since he would likely have to have approved the purchase of the building for the school, but Shuler did not answer the voicemail as of the writing of this article.
The community deserves to know if the Ascent Classical Academy’s organizers are aware of the lead contamination problem at sites used as indoor shooting ranges, and that this problem is highly likely to exist at the property they just purchased for the school. Parents and the public should know if Ascent has a plan in place to remediate the building prior to it opening as a school this August, and if they plan to verify that the remediation was effective enough to assure the building is safe enough for children and adults to inhabit for hours every day for years on end.

First hint of accountability for Red Rock

A copy of a letter sent to Red Rock Nissan by the Colorado Department of Revenue’s Auto Industry Division. This copy of the letter came to Michelle Mondragon, whom Red Rock Nissan initially charged over $15k above the price they advertised for her truck. The Mondragons filed a complaint with the Auto Industry Division against Red Rock last October. The letter warns Red Rock that their dealer’s license could be in jeopardy.

Michelle Mondragon, whose hair-raising story about buying a vehicle from Red Rock Nissan last year was featured in this blog November 1, 2022, received the above letter from the Colorado Department of Revenue’s Auto Industry Division last week indicating they have finally taken some action against the dealership, albeit a very weak action.

The letter warns Red Rock they “may have” violated several laws and regulations in the Mondragons’ case regarding deceptive advertising and sales of vehicles, and says “No action will be taken against your dealer’s license at this time. However, any further violations may be referred to the Motor Vehicle Dealer board,” and “your dealer’s license may be subject to disciplinary action that could include fines, suspension or revocation of your license. It is imperative that you take measures to correct the matters within your organization.”

This is likely just the beginning.

The Mondragons submitted their complaint against Red Rock last October. Since then, many more Red Rock customers have submitted complaints about how Red Rock defrauded them.

If you review paperwork from your deal at Red Rock and find irregularities like forged signatures, charges for items you never agreed to like extended warranties, special coatings or detail packages, or if you check with your lender and find Red Rock lied to them about your gross income, monthly rent or mortgage payment or the features of the vehicle you were buying, file a complaint with the Auto Industry Division at this link.  Be prepared to upload images of your paperwork to substantiate what you found that was fraudulent.

 

 

Criminal investigator who was investigating Red Rock quits & goes to work for Red Rock

Dale Sundeen (Photo: Auto News)

Dale Sundeen, the Colorado Department of Revenue Auto Industry Division’s criminal investigator who was investigating Grand Junction’s Red Rock dealerships, quit his job with the state and went to work for Red Rock Auto Group as their “Corporate Director of Compliance.”