State Pols Want to Put the Squeeze on ‘Lemons’


State officials Thursday urged Governor Cuomo to sign a bill that will put the brakes on shady car salesmen, or “curbstoners”, who each year, they say, sell thousands of untraceable and dangerous vehicles costing New York State millions of dollars annually in lost sales tax.

“Let’s face it, in most cases the most pricy item any of us will ever purchase is a car.” New York State Senator Jeff Klein said.

“Curbstoners,” who mostly operate in the Bronx and Brooklyn sell an estimated 470,000 auctioned-off, damaged, and even stolen vehicles without VIN numbers each year to vulnerable buyers through street, and online advertisements at a price that is well below the Kelly Blue Book value.

“They’re putting unsafe and stolen vehicles on our roads, and if they sell you a lemon, well you’re out of luck,” Assemblyman Francisco Moya said. “ ‘Curbstoners’ have a habit of disappearing into thin air.”

Once sold, it is close to impossible for the consumer to track and appeal the purchase as the investigation found that the majority of the 85 percent of illegal dealers who post phone numbers on advertisements used prepaid cell phones, or “burner phones,” whose contact information can be deleted and discarded after only a few uses.

Introduced by New York State Senator Jeff Klein, the bill is designed to quadruple the fine for offenders from $1,000 to $4,000 if caught selling cars three times in a 30-month period.

“I think the important thing we need to do to take care of this problem is really hit these entrepreneur dealers in the pocketbook.” Klein said.

Untaxed, and unregulated, the vehicles sold by “curbstoners” go unaccounted for, costing the state around $56.7 million in unpaid taxes. The legislation would enforce New York State Law requiring private dealers who sell at least five vehicles over a 12-month period to register as a licensed dealer with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Undercover investigation footage shot on 7 Street and Avenue K in the Midwood section of Brooklyn featured an investigator browsing through a curbside showroom of Toyota Priuses.

The seller who went by the name Demitri, can be heard saying that he had no knowledge of the vehicle’s latest inspection as it was not his, but an auctioned vehicle from Upstate.

During a test drive, “Demitri” limited the investigator to driving around the block, because the vehicle was not insured. The investigator was also asked to park in the vehicle’s original parking space on the block so future customers could view his entire selection of vehicles.

“The investigation that the senator has done in looking into this, I think really is going to shine a spotlight on how we can really eradicate this illegal practice that’s going on in our streets,” Moya said.

Cuomo is expected to decide whether to approve the bill by Saturday.

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