Car dealer faces civil suit, criminal charges

Bryan Cohen Jun. 8, 2011, 2:17am


BUFFALO, N.Y. (Legal Newsline) - New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced on Wednesday that he was suing the owner of a now-defunct car dealership that allegedly ripped off customers.

Laurence Sessum III, the owner of Maxx Auto Sales, faces a civil lawsuit, and Schneiderman has obtained an order to freeze Sessum's assets. Sessum is accused of taking over $100,000 in payments from dozens of consumers for vehicles that were never delivered.

Schneiderman alleges that Sessum collected the payments from consumers to make restitution for a previous conviction by the Erie County district attorney for a separate crime in which he pleaded guilty to stealing $500,000 from the New York State Tax Department. Sessum would have been likely to avoid jail time if he had paid $50,000 in restitution.

"New Yorkers should be able to rest assured that when they buy a car, they will be legally protected and the transaction will be above board," Schneiderman said. "This is a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul, where money was taken from consumers and used to pay off a previous crime. I am committed to using all of our legal tools to stop crime sprees like this in its tracks."

Scheiderman alleges that Sessum operated a "buy here-pay here" used car dealership called Maxx Auto Sales that took down payments or payments in full but never delivered the vehicles. To obtain the $50,000 restitution payment for his previous conviction, Schneiderman alleges that Sessum resorted to criminal behavior, taking over $100,000 in payments from customers on the promise to deliver motor vehicles to them.

Sessum's allegedly deceptive business practices include selling vehicles that he did not own, selling the same vehicles more than once, telling consumers that a vehicle would be ready for delivery shortly, citing the need to service the vehicle, but the vehicles were never ready nor delivered to the buyer, and promising that he could get a specific vehicle if the consumer made a down payment, a promise he did not make good on.

The dealership was allegedly abruptly shut down after getting enough money to pay the restitution, leaving dozens of consumers without their down payments and vehicles.

Sessum is charged with one count of scheme to defraud in the first degree, four counts of grand larceny in the third degree and one count of grand larceny in the fourth degree. If convicted for these crimes, Sessum could face up to seven years in prison.

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