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Attorney general seeks restitution, penalties in Northampton Motor Classics case

  • GAZETTE FILE PHOTO<br/>A judge Monday granted an injunction against Andrew Feuerstein, owner of the former Northampton Motor Classics which abruptly closed in June. The order prevents Feuerstein and his general manager from selling any more vehicles or destroying or concealing records, and freezes their assets.

    GAZETTE FILE PHOTO
    A judge Monday granted an injunction against Andrew Feuerstein, owner of the former Northampton Motor Classics which abruptly closed in June. The order prevents Feuerstein and his general manager from selling any more vehicles or destroying or concealing records, and freezes their assets. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Can't name women in this; shows UMass School of Ed's program in Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of UMAss School of Education.

    Can't name women in this; shows UMass School of Ed's program in Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of UMAss School of Education. Purchase photo reprints »

  • GAZETTE FILE PHOTO<br/>A judge Monday granted an injunction against Andrew Feuerstein, owner of the former Northampton Motor Classics which abruptly closed in June. The order prevents Feuerstein and his general manager from selling any more vehicles or destroying or concealing records, and freezes their assets.
  • Can't name women in this; shows UMass School of Ed's program in Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of UMAss School of Education.

— A Hampshire Superior Court judge granted an injunction Monday against a former Northampton auto dealer and his general manager, barring them from selling any more vehicles, freezing their personal and corporate assets, and ordering them not to destroy or conceal any records related to Northampton Motor Classics, which shut down abruptly in June.

The order issued by Judge Mary-Lou Rup came after a motion last week by the state attorney general’s office, which continues to investigate allegations of unfair and deceptive business practices by defendants Andrew Feuerstein, owner of the defunct dealership, and his former general manager, Michael Dale, who ran day-to-day operations. The judge also agreed to attach $105,000 in assets against the pair based on conservative estimates of restitution and civil penalties provided by Attorney General Martha Coakley. Coakley is seeking restitution for 16 consumers along with civil penalties.

“Consumers make a substantial investment when purchasing motor vehicles and they rely on them for essential activities every day,” Coakley said in a statement Tuesday. “This business misled consumers by selling vehicles it could not deliver titles for, leaving consumers stranded with cars they could not use and without the funds to purchase another.”

The court action comes months after more than a dozen consumers said they fell victim to a title scam and were left burdened with car loans on vehicles they could not get inspected, registered or put on the road.

The total amount of damages to consumers is not fully known, but a Nov. 13 court filing by Ann E. Lynch, an attorney in the AG’s Consumer Protection Division, states that “Given the number and severity of the consumer protection violations and amounts of money involved in each transaction, it is likely that the judgment against defendants will be well over $130,000.”

The Northampton License Commission in July revoked the dealer’s license for Northampton Motor Classics at the request of state authorities. The business operated on Bridge Road and was a successor to another short-lived business Feuerstein owned at the site, which sold Volkswagen vehicles.

Attempts to reach Feuerstein for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful, as they have been for the past few months. Dale’s former cellphone number was reassigned a few months ago to someone else and the former dealership manager also could not be reached this week.

“I’ve had a lot of people looking for him and looking for money,” said a man who answered Dale’s former phone line Tuesday.

The motion filed by Coakley’s office states that Feuerstein and Dale have been “purposefully unavailable to consumers” since Northampton Motor Classics closed in June, and “have not demonstrated any intention to address consumers’ losses.”

The attorney general’s office alleges Feuerstein and Dale violated the state’s consumer protection laws by “selling vehicles without delivering titles, failing to pay off loans on trade-in vehicles after making the sale, failing to purchase service contracts for consumers who paid for them, and instructing consumers to use dealer plates illegally while they waited for vehicles to be registered.”

The AG also alleges that Feuerstein and Dale intentionally delayed paying off consumers’ existing automobile loans, misled consumers about the status of loan payments and titles, and converted for their own use money paid by consumers for goods and services.

Under the court order Monday, Feuerstein and Dale have 10 days to provide a detailed accounting to the attorney general’s office of all their assets, including bank accounts of any kind.

Feuerstein’s primary residence is believed to be in Hartford, Conn., according to court records.

A former owner of a BMW dealership in Greenwich, Conn., for 25 years, Feuerstein bought the longtime Dana Automotive dealership on Bridge Road in Northampton in 2010 from property owner Dana S. Goodfield, with whom he negotiated a lease. He set up Northampton Motor Classics in January 2012.

Goodfield filed a lawsuit in July, alleging that Feuerstein failed to pay his lease. Earlier in the year, two other companies — one in Colorado and the other in New York — filed complaints in Hampshire Superior Court alleging Feuerstein and his auto dealerships defaulted on leasing and loan agreements. Court records in those cases show Feuerstein was more than $500,000 in debt to four companies and banks at the time his business shut down.

Dan Crowley can be reached at dcrowley@gazettenet.com.

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