NAUGATUCK — An arbitrator has concluded Bob’s Dodge, a now-defunct New Haven Road dealership, tricked a Spanish-speaking man into buying two cars with useless warranties, one of which was a lemon that destroyed his credit.
Arbitrator John Gamm decided that Country Motors II, which currently runs Barberino Nissan in Wallingford and Bob’s of Milford, must pay about $106,000 to Julio Gomez Martinez, 72, of Hartford. Country Motors II is owned by some of the same people who used to run Bob’s Dodge.
According to arbitration documents, Gomez, who is Puerto Rican, came to the borough dealership in 2008 with his daughter and son-in-law, drawn there by the dealership’s frequent ads on Spanish-language television stations featuring a Spanish-speaking woman, Maria Duarte.
When the family arrived at the dealership, they were told Duarte was not available but that another salesman, Gabriel Pagan, would translate. The family said they could afford $300 a month, which Gomez would pay, and picked a 2007 Chevrolet Trailblazer, which they were only allowed to test drive in the parking lot, according to arbitration documents. The dealership’s finance manager presented them documents all in English.
The family noted the contract called for Gomez to pay $381.64 per month.
Pagan and the finance manager said the “bank” required the extra expense to insure against repair and maintenance expenses, according to arbitration documents. According to the paperwork in English, the service contract was “not required to obtain financing.”
Over the next four months, the Trailblazer’s gas gauge broke and power steering fluid began to leak. The dealership said the warranty did not cover the repairs. The family finally met with Duarte, who explained the Trailblazer was an auction vehicle that qualified as a “lemon” and the dealership would offer a different car in exchange.
Gomez and his son-in-law, Ernesto Quintana, picked a 2006 Nissan Murano, which Duarte said had belonged to the owner’s son and was not an auction vehicle. Duarte asked for a $400 “registration fee,” which Gomez paid in cash. She gave him a receipt in English that said Gomez was owed $400. Duarte told Gomez to drive the Trailblazer home and the “bank” would get it.
UBI Federal Credit Union, the lender for the Trailblazer, eventually sent Gomez a repossession notice, after which the general manager of Bob’s, John Mocadlo, told Gomez he owned both cars, there was never a trade and there should never have been a registration charge. The Murano was also an auction vehicle, Mocadlo said.
In an interview with the Republican-American, Gomez said in Spanish that the situation ruined his credit and his health, for years.
“Thank God everything is fixed,” Gomez said. “I wasn’t sleeping and I couldn’t buy anything.”
Attorney Kevin Greene of Halloran & Sage in Hartford, who was hired to represent Bob’s Dodge, is challenging the arbitrator’s decision in federal court and wants the award reduced to about $25,000. There was no basis for Gomez’s large damage claims, Greene said.
“I thought the arbitrator had misapplied the law to the facts, found facts that were not supported by the evidence in the testimony,” Greene said.
Gomez’s attorney, Daniel Blinn of the Consumer Law Group in Rocky Hill, said he deals with many similar cases.
“A significant part of my practice involves representing non-English-speaking consumers,” Blinn said. “Anybody who is not financially literate or who has difficulty understanding documentation is very vulnerable to deceptive practices.”