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The FTC reached an agreement with Richard Berry, the owner and manager of a group of bankrupt auto dealerships in Arizona and New Mexico, to resolve charges that he and the dealerships deceived consumers and falsified information on vehicle financing applications.  Many of the affected consumers were members of the Navajo Nation.

“When Berry’s auto dealerships falsified income and down payment information to qualify people for loans they couldn’t afford to pay back, they set people up for failure – including default, repossession, and ruined credit,” said Samuel Levine, Acting Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “That’s why the FTC sued Berry and his dealerships.”

The FTC reached an earlier settlement with the four dealerships: Tate’s Auto Center of Winslow, Tate’s Automotive, Tate Ford-Lincoln-Mercury, and Tate’s Auto Center of Gallup. If approved by the district court, the present settlement against Berry, would result in a $450,000 payment to the FTC and conclude the FTC’s case. The settlement also included a stipulated dismissal of relief defendant Linda Tate, which has been entered by the court.

The FTC’s complaint, filed in August 2018, alleged that the defendants falsified consumers’ income and down payment information to get vehicles financed and engaged in unlawful advertising.  In an earlier ruling in the case, the judge found that the defendants violated the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) and Consumer Leasing Act (CLA) by failing to disclose legally required information in their advertisements.

In addition to the $450,000 payment, the proposed settlement prohibits Berry from misrepresenting information in documents associated with a consumer’s purchase, financing, or leasing of a motor vehicle, and misrepresenting the costs or any other material fact related to vehicle financing. The proposed order also requires Berry to provide consumers sufficient time to review and obtain a copy of the relevant vehicle financing documents and prohibits him from violating the TILA and CLA.  

The FTC wishes to acknowledge the valuable assistance of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission during the investigation of this case.

The Commission vote approving the proposed stipulated order was 5-0. Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter issued a concurring statement. The proposed order was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.

NOTE: Stipulated final orders or injunctions, etc. have the force of law when approved and signed by the District Court judge.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition and protect and educate consumers. Learn more about consumer topics at consumer.ftc.gov, or report fraud, scams, and bad business practices at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Follow the FTC on social media, read consumer alerts and the business blog, and sign up to get the latest FTC news and alerts.

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Naomi Takagi
Bureau of Consumer Protection