Victims lose millions in car advertisement scheme

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- It was an advertisement for a car that was too hard to resist. But this ad was part of a multi-million dollar scheme that lured in hundreds of victims.

Get a brand new Suzuki 4X4 or Forenza for an initial $0 down payment and only $47 a month payment. Sounds like a deal, right? Hundreds of consumers saw this ad or received a mailing from Joe Gibson's dealership and expected a car for $47 a month.

"$47 a month, and in a year your payments will balloon up to $700 or you can come back and just trade it in and we'll redo the deal," said U.S. Postal Inspector Richard Carter.

If people went back expecting a legitimate explanation, the dealership would say the program no longer exists.

"So you are on the hook for $600 a month," said Carter. "And so people were going into default, their credit was being ruined, and it was a mess. It was a mess."

Another ploy for luring in victims was the direct mailings that looked like checks.

"They would take it into the dealership and it was $10,000 or $500 or what have it, and there was never a check, but it was to get them in the door," said Carter.

Hundreds of complaints were flooding into the Better Business Bureau about the false advertising.

"When it started, they started coming in one after the other," said Vee Daniel with the BBB. "You know something's wrong. You know that maybe somebody on the other side is not doing the right thing."

That's when the BBB went to the postal inspectors and requested they investigate.

"$18 million in fraud, a hard loss of a little over $8 million, 600 victims," said Carter. "It is absolutely egregious, egregious. I mean that's the best way to say it. These people had no shame."

The suspect was sentenced to six months in prison on mail and wire fraud charges. He was also ordered to be on probation for five years after his release from prison.
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