Crime, Law and Justice

Minnesota’s attorney general sues used-car dealership for alleged fraud

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Attorney General Keith Ellison announces his office is suing Midwest Car Search for deceptive sales on Tuesday at the Attorney General's Office in St. Paul.
Sarah Thamer | MPR News

The attorney general’s office filed a consumer protection lawsuit against Midwest Car Search in Fridley for allegedly selling cars that aren’t certified by the state.

According to Attorney General Keith Ellison, Midwest Car Search allegedly engaged in a pattern of deceptive sales, specifically targeting Spanish speakers and people with low credit scores. 

“MCS illegally signed consumers up for expensive vehicle service contracts without buyer’s consent. These contracts aren’t like a warranty but instead require the owner to make an out-of-pocket payment in advance for service,” Ellison said at a press conference Tuesday. 

Ellison says none of the more than 3,000 cars the dealership sold to buyers from 2017 through 2022 were entitled to be marketed or sold as certified under Minnesota state law. 

In an email to MPR News, Aaron Thom, the attorney representing Midwest Car Search, responded on behalf of the dealership.

“Midwest Car Search will meet and beat the State’s groundless allegations in court after the State commences this lawsuit, if it chooses to do so,” he said. 

Thom said the dealership was transparent and cooperative during a state inspection.  

“Midwest Car Search opened up all of its files to the State. That was on July 7, 2023 — over 9 months ago,” he said in an email. “Only when personnel changes occurred in the Attorney General’s Office did the State decide to push this case forward — and then only by pushing this out to the media rather than explaining its concerns to Midwest Car Search or litigating on the merits.” 

Manuela Enriquez, a 43-year-old woman who lives in Burnsville, said she bought a car from Midwest Car Search in 2019. 

Enriquez, who speaks Spanish, said after purchasing the car, she learned the brakes did not work. 

“I called up the company and I told them that the brakes were no good and they said well, you got to call up the bank that lent you the money, even though they were the ones that sold me the warranty,” Enriquez said through a translator.

The lawsuit alleges the dealership refuses to provide warranties required by law. 

“As a consumer, read as much as you can, absolutely. Educate yourself to the degree that you can. But at the end of the day, the seller has to be fair and abide by the law. We need consumer education, but that alone will never get it done,” Ellison said. 

The attorney general’s office alleges Midwest Car Search illegally added $4.5 million worth of vehicle service contracts to customer purchases.

According to the attorney general’s office, the lawsuit is the first action that the office has filed against a used car dealer following amendments to Minnesota’s Used Car Law that became effective Aug. 1, 2023.

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