WATCHUNG, NJ — Liccardi Ford Lincoln, a car dealer on Route 22 West in Watchung, has agreed to pay $37,500 to six consumers whose cash deposits were allegedly stolen by a sales representative who has since been fired.

Liccardi Ford Lincoln and Liccardi Auto Group in Watchung agreed to reimburse the consumers to resolve the Division’s investigation, Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino and the Division of Consumer Affairs announced in a press release.

“We’re pleased to have reached a settlement in which consumers are able to fully recoup the financial losses they suffered," said Sharon Joyce, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “The purchase of a vehicle is a major investment and we will continue to utilize the full scope of our powers in our efforts to protect consumers from fraud in such significant purchases.” 

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The consumers said they gave cash — ranging from $2,000 to $15,000 — to a Liccardi Ford sales representative as down payments on new and used vehicles that were supposed to be ordered from other sellers and brought to the Watchung dealership for their purchase, according to the press release, and when the buyers returned to Liccardi Ford to finalize their sales, they were told that the representative had been fired and the dealership had no record of them or their deposits. 

The salesman, Benjamin Carrasquillo, of New York City, has been indicted in Somerset County on charges of third-degree theft by deception in connection with the missing deposits. The consumers allege that the Carrasquillo insisted they provide cash deposits, and refused to accept checks or credit cards. Each consumer completed and received a document signed by Carrasquillo that set forth the terms of the proposed sale.

“These customers handed over their cash in good faith, trusting that the money would be used as down payments on the cars they ordered, not pocketed by an unscrupulous salesman, as it appears happened here,” said Attorney General Porrino. “What makes this situation even more troubling is that all of these customers speak very little English, a fact the salesman allegedly exploited for his own financial gain.” 

The division’s investigation found the consumers initially met with Carrasquillo while shopping for vehicles between March and June 2017. After Carrasquillo found vehicles for their purchase at other sales locations, the consumers agreed to provide cash deposits so that the vehicles could be transported to Liccardi Ford for their purchase, the press release said.

“We’re pleased to have reached a settlement in which consumers are able to fully recoup the financial losses they suffered," said Joyce. “The purchase of a vehicle is a major investment and we will continue to utilize the full scope of our powers in our efforts to protect consumers from fraud in such significant purchases.”

Under the consent order, Liccardi Ford also agreed to handle future consumer complaints in the manner set forth in a 2005 consent order the dealership previously entered into with the Division, specifically, through the Division's Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process.