Scott County Judge J. Hobart Darbyshire orders immediate injunction prohibiting defendants from conducting used-car business in Scott County.
[Update -- April 29, 2008: Defendants to cease operations and pay $20,000 civil penalty through a consent judgment and order.]
(DAVENPORT) The Iowa Department of Transportation and the Iowa Attorney General’s Office filed a joint lawsuit Thursday alleging that Aardvark Auto Service & Sales, several other related used-car dealerships and their principals – including Bruce Duque, Tina Duque, and Jonathan Wille – committed consumer fraud and numerous other violations in the advertising, sale and service of used cars and the extension of credit for the purchase of used cars.
Scott County District Court Judge J. Hobart Darbyshire reviewed the petition Thursday afternoon and immediately entered a temporary injunction prohibiting the defendants from “engaging in the deceptive, misleading and unfair practices” alleged in the lawsuit.
The order also prohibited the defendants from conducting used-car business and “acting in any capacity in the process of selling, buying, leasing, repairing, renting, titling, financing, warranting, recycling, salvaging, repossessing, wholesaling, transporting, hauling, carrying or towing used motor vehicles, other than those that are used by defendants for personal use.”
“We allege that the defendants target vulnerable, lower-income consumers with poor credit or no credit histories by promising them reliable and safe transportation at low prices and pay-offs within a year,” said Attorney General Tom Miller.
“In reality, the customers often make substantial payments to the defendants, only to end up without a working car, either because the consumers could not afford the car in the first place, or because the car broke down and was unlawfully repossessed by the defendants.”
The Iowa DOT revoked Aardvark Auto’s motor vehicle license effective September 18, 2006, but, the suit alleges, Aardvark violated the Motor Vehicle Dealers Code by continuing to sell cars at the lot located at 802 W. 2nd Street in Davenport. The DOT alleged that the defendants also violated Iowa’s Motor Vehicle Code by falsifying the date of sale of vehicles.
The joint DOT/AG lawsuit is the result of substantial investigative work on the part of the DOT's Office of Motor Vehicle Enforcement and legal work by the AG's Office.
Major Kerry A. Kirkpatrick of the Iowa DOT's Motor Vehicle Enforcement/Investigative Unit said, “The alleged fraudulent activities of Aardvark Auto Sales have harmed the public trust in the used automotive industry. Mr. Duque and his associates have taken advantage of hard-working Iowa citizens who spent their money to obtain affordable transportation and wound up being troubled by mechanical breakdowns, illegal repossessions or failure to get their registration and plates in a timely manner.”
Defendants named in the lawsuit are: Bruce Ruben Duque, Tina R. Duque, Francisco J. Duque, Jr. (father of Bruce), Esperanza Duque (mother of Bruce), and Jonathan Wille. The defendants did business as Aardvark Auto Service & Sales, State Street Car Company, The Motorhaus, Auto Kings, UBA Auto Repair and/or URA Auto Repair, and The Car Boys (a used car lot located in Moline.)
The 52-page lawsuit alleges, among other things, that the defendants:
- Engage in a deliberately misleading advertising campaign to convince consumers that they can afford cars which they cannot afford.
- Deliberately mislead consumers as to the quality of the used cars they sell.
- Refuse to honor warranties promised to consumers.
- Fail to timely transfer title to consumers who pay titling fees to the dealerships, and/or file fraudulent applications for title on behalf of consumers.
- Engage in a campaign to violate the Iowa Consumer Credit Code by failing to provide or timely provide all Truth in Lending disclosures required by the Iowa Consumer Credit Code, and violating the Consumer Credit Code in many other ways.
- Unlawfully repossess cars.
- Engage in the business of selling used vehicles without a required license.
The lawsuit alleges some of the defendants engaged in a civil violation of “ongoing criminal conduct,” alleging, for example, that they committed fraudulent practices, tampered with records, and committed forgery.
“Ultimately,” Miller said, “the State alleges that many consumers default on their predatory loans, resulting in many repossessions. This predatory, fraudulent and unlawful system has harmed Iowa consumers.”
The suit asks the court to temporarily and permanently prohibit the alleged unlawful practices, impose civil penalties, and order consumer restitution. Consumer Fraud Act violations are punishable by penalties up to $40,000 per violation.
The lawsuit argued that the Court should issue an immediate temporary injunction: “Given the history of law enforcement efforts directed at Defendants, as set forth herein, and Defendants’ blatant disregard for those efforts, any doubt about halting the deceptive, fraudulent and unlawful conduct described herein should be resolved in favor of preventing further victimization.”
Judge Darbyshire entered the “Order Granting Temporary Injunction” Thursday afternoon.