Warrant Details Charges: Investigators Claim Dealer Transactions Improper
By Tom Embrey
State authorities investigating Steve Jones Honda seized multiple files of car sales and trades, 32 state temporary marker books, payment records, copies of checks, accounting and business office paperwork, according to a copy of the search warrant that was served on Feb. 28.
Agents from the Division of Motor Vehicle License and Theft bureau arrested Jones, the owner of the dealership, the same day, charging him with 160 counts relating to improperly selling vehicles. Jones is charged with 83 felony counts of obtaining property by false pretenses. He also faces 77 misdemeanor charges of temporary marker violations and failure to deliver a vehicle title.
The charges stem from complaints lodged with the DMV from people who bought cars from the dealership.
The search warrant says that between Jan. 1, 2012, and Feb. 27, 2013, Steve Jones Honda sold numerous cars to consumers and alleges that the dealership committed violations such as obtaining property by false pretense, temporary marker violations and failure to deliver a title.
The warrant lists five examples of violations found during a review of records from the business and indicates that the DMV investigators "substantiated approximately 362 violations in 179 files." Approximately 70 of these violations are for charging customers a $59 electronic filing fee for work they did not process but that was processed by the License Plate Agency, the warrant says.
The warrant indicates that obtaining property by false pretense occurred when Steve Jones Honda sold trade-in vehicles to a new purchaser before satisfying outstanding liens and obtaining clear titles, which negatively impacted the customer's credit.
One of the specific incidents cited in the warrant involved the purchase of a 2012 Honda Odyssey Van on June 8, 2012. The purchaser was issued a temporary plate and the dealership failed to file with the DMV the proper paper work for title and registration within 10 days, as required by law.
The dealership also charged the purchaser a $59 fee for electronic filing of the title and registration application fees. The dealership didn't file for the tile and registration electronically, paperwork showed. Instead, the application was processed through the local N.C. License Plate Agency.
On Aug. 18, 2012, the search warrant indicates that Steve Jones Honda obtained a 2011 Honda Odyseey from a customer as a trade-in and entered into an agreement with the owners to pay off the outstanding balance owed to America Honda Finance. That vehicle was then sold to another individual before the lien was paid off and the dealership was unable to obtain title and registration for the new owner within the required 10 days.
"Evidence of these and other violations will be contained in the dealers sales files for the victims/purchasers as well as previously described electronic media. The computers were used to complete the sales transactions associated with the listed crimes and it is also likely that employees may have stored or backed up some or all of the data to portable storage devices," the warrant reads.
"It is also believed that information directly relating to these crimes may be contained in email correspondence between internal and external recipients due to the customer complaints and the likelihood that these matters may have been discussed or handled via email."
Employees at the dealership have declined comment in the case, referring all questions to their attorneys at Van Camp Meacham and Newman in Pinehurst.
Tom Van Camp said he expects the firm to release a statement later this week. He said information related to the case is still under review.
State DMV spokesperson Marge Howell said the investigation is ongoing and that investigators are working with affected customers to "try to get clear titles."
Anyone who thinks they might be affected by questionable transactions with Steve Jones Honda are asked to contact Moore County's DMV License and Theft Bureau at (910) 944-3628 or (910) 944-3624. They are asked to call between 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Contact Tom Embrey at (910) 693-2484 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
More like this story