Skip to comments.Dealership apologizes for error, customer arrest
Posted on 10/08/2012 5:14:50 AM PDT by billorites
The president of Priority Chevrolet apologized Wednesday for the arrest of a customer in June whom the dealership mistakenly undercharged for an SUV and who resisted the company's efforts to get him to sign a new, costlier contract.
Dennis Ellmer said he's heard from Chesapeake police that one of his managers told an officer that Danny Sawyer of Chesapeake had stolen a 2012 Chevrolet Traverse.
"I owe Mr. Sawyer a big apology," said Ellmer, who manages the entire Priority Auto Group - which includes 11 dealerships in Virginia and North Carolina.
He said his staff erred when they sold the SUV to Sawyer for about $5,600 too little and erred again when they went to police. He said Sawyer should not have been arrested and definitely should not have spent four hours in jail.
"It is my plan to let him keep the $5,600 and to make Mr. Sawyer right. I can't tell you how I plan to fix it, but it is my intention to make it right," said Ellmer, adding that he would like to sit down and talk with Sawyer.
Rebecca Colaw, Sawyer's attorney, said she appreciates that Ellmer is taking responsibility for what happened. But she said he will have to do more than say he's sorry and let Sawyer keep the SUV.
"An apology is not enough," she said.
Earlier this month, Sawyer, 40, a registered nurse, filed two lawsuits against the dealership accusing it of malicious prosecution, slander, defamation and abuse of process, among other things. The lawsuits seek $2.2 million in damages, plus attorney fees.
Ellmer and his vice president, Stacy Cummings, said they were unaware of the lawsuits until they read about them Tuesday on the front page of The Virginian-Pilot. Two managers at Priority Chevrolet declined Monday to comment on the lawsuits, and two phone calls and an email to an attorney for the dealership were not returned.
According to the lawsuits, Sawyer test-drove a blue Chevrolet Traverse on May 7 but ultimately decided to buy a black one. He traded in his 2008 Saturn Vue, signed a promissory note and left in his new SUV.
The next morning, Sawyer returned and asked to exchange the black Traverse for the blue one.
The lawsuit claims Wib Davenport, a sales manager, agreed to the trade without discussing how much more the blue Traverse would cost. Cummings disputed that, saying Davenport told Sawyer it would cost about $5,500 more than the black one and that Sawyer orally agreed to the higher price.
Regardless, the final contract Sawyer signed did not reflect the higher price, which Cummings said should have been in the area of $39,000. He blamed a clerical error.
"We definitely made a mistake there. There is no doubt about it," said Ellmer.
After signing the contract - which listed a sale price of about $34,000 - Sawyer immediately left the dealership and returned with a cashier's check covering what he owed after dealer incentives and his trade-in.
A week later, Sawyer came back from a vacation to find numerous voicemails and a letter from the dealership, the suit said. In a phone conversation, Davenport explained they had made a mistake on the contract and sold the car for too little. He asked Sawyer to return to the dealership and sign a new contract.
The lawsuit claims Sawyer refused. Cummings said Sawyer initially agreed but never followed through.
When Sawyer did not return to the dealership, Priority staff continued their attempts to contact him via phone, text message and hand-delivered letters. They eventually contacted police.
On June 15, three Chesapeake police officers arrested Sawyer in his front yard and took him before a magistrate judge. He was released on bond after about four hours at the Chesapeake jail, the suit said.
Commonwealth's Attorney Nancy Parr said her office dropped all charges Aug. 23 after speaking with representatives of the dealership and determining there was insufficient evidence to pursue the case.
In an interview Tuesday, Ellmer and Cummings said their staff never reported the SUV stolen and never asked for Sawyer to be arrested. They said they called police only for help locating the SUV while they pursued the civil action.
After speaking with police Wednesday, however, Ellmer said he'd learned one of his managers, Brad Anderson, had indeed said the SUV was stolen.
Kelly O'Sullivan, a spokeswoman for the Chesapeake Police Department, said the officer told Anderson in advance he was going to secure a warrant for Sawyer's arrest.
Ellmer described what happened to Sawyer as an isolated incident. He noted that his dealerships sell about 13,000 cars a year.
"This shouldn't have happened," he said.
Contract was signed, bank terms agreed to, sucks to be the dealer! I hope the customer enjoys his 2.2 million dollars!
How did he get arrested. Couldn’t he have just showed the contract to the police? (In before the “cops were busy shooting the dog” comment, in 3 ... 2 ...)
How come this was not treated as a civil suit issue? Last time I complained of a dealer stealing my money I was told by the cops that it was a civilian court issue. Whatever.
Cops were probably doing rock, paper, scissors to make the bust. Surprised they didn’t tazer him....and his dog
Hmmmm, seems the buyer knew they screwed up but was tight lipped. What would you have done? I have to believe the buyer knew what his final price was supposed to be. You don’t sign a contract for a vehicle without knowing the bottom line. Would you sign it if it was $5600 too much? Doubt it....
Looks like some of the sales staff at the dealership stepped in it also...BIG TIME.
Ahhh, but Comrade. This is Government Motors.
Yep, A contract is a contract, and Brad Anderson needs to do time for a false police report.
According to the story, an employee reported the SUV as stolen. That's a specific criminal offense.
I agree that the cops dropped the ball here, but that's how it became a criminal case.
He was arrested because the dealership swore to an arrest warrant for a stolen vehicle. It is not the job of the officers to determine the validity of a piece of paper but only to serve the warrant.
Say all you want about out of control cops, but in this case, they were doing exactly what their job spelled out, legally and ethically.
I would wager that this dealership was allowed to keep their Chevrolet franchise because of politics and that in itself leads to far bigger questions of those who survived the the GM bailout and rapes of the investors. It was the local people who lost their jobs and the GM and Chrysler Bond Holders who lost everything in that payoff to the unions, not to mention the non-union workers for Delphi.
At that point it doesn't matter. The cops don't do legal decisions. Once the warrant goes out, that is what they execute.
I wondered about that as well. But, apparently he didn't get the opportunity. The article said he was "arrested in his front yard".
Under those circumstances, I presume that the guy said: I have a signed contract, they simply claim they undercharged me and want more money. The cops should have stepped back at that point and given him the opportunity to clear up the issue. But, I guess that independent thought isn't a requirement for them.
If nothing else, the judge should have dismissed the charges immediately. But, my guess is that everyone is going to claim they were just following orders.....
Sawyer should make them buy him a Ford.
“It is my plan to let him keep the $5,600 and to make Mr. Sawyer right.”
You’re going to LET him keep the $5,600?? LOL! That’s mighty nice of you, you swine. It isn’t yours in the first place!
But you ARE going to make it right, whether you like it or not, hopefully about $2.2 million right.
'Come on down to Bob Smith Ford, where the prices are low and customers are not arrested.'
It was a criminal case because of the stolen vehicle warrant. The employee was management. You know, the buck stops here kinda thing like who authorized the company attorney to file the charges or if the attorney was even consulted. The bottom line, it was the name of the dealership on the warrant, not a personal issue not implicating the dealership.
In any case, if I were the management who supposedly made that decision, I would have naturally elevated it to the owner to handle along with my acknowledgement and apologies that a huge mistake was made to the ownership, along with my immediate recognition that my salary would be docked for the error and accepting whatever else the ownership thought was appropriate.
The dealership was insane for thinking that ANYONE would come back and sign another, more expensive contract. I certainly wouldn’t. They messed up on the price. Happens. Maybe they could have fired the salesman. But to get the police involved is absurd. I hope this hurts them.
The only thing Mr. Ellmer needs to say to Mr. Sawyer is “Hello, partner.”
is it an easier decision when the checker at the store accidently gives you $20 bucks too much change? You raise a good point....
Then someone screwed the pooch earlier. They shouldn't have sworn out the warrant without sufficient proof from the dealership that a crime was committed.
I don't know exactly what the employee told them, but if he came in with a claim that the someone paid $5,600 less than they were supposed to, then the police should have investigated the circumstances more thoroughly. They should have seen the signed contract, and told the employee to go home.
Of course, if the employee simply said that the vehicle was stolen, then that was an out-and-out lie. He would have to fabricate a complete story that didn't hint there was any misunderstanding -- or the police should have have investigated further.
My point is there was plenty of opportunity for the police to figure out this was simply a dispute over the selling price, if the employee even hinted that it was something besides a guy that took a car for a test drive and didn't return it. Once any paperwork was signed, it became a civil dispute, not a criminal one.
True. And now their job is to issue an arrest warrant against the dealership employee for the false report.
At a minimum, he should get to keep the SUV that he bought, free and clear, and get a free Corvette ZR1 to park right next to it.
Having a customer arrested seems extreme, too. If Ellmer has any sense, he’ll settle for whatever he can get away with. Swearing out a false criminal complaint is a *HUGE* deal, imho. Whoever reported the “theft” to the coppers needs to do some time. They figure they are big respected auto dealer and this guy is just some little guy they can steamroller. Screw, them, I think $2.3 million would teach them a lesson.
Here’s a photo of Ellmer, as well as all 11 dealerships that he owns.
Unfortunately Ellmer is a Republican with donations to Scott Rigell.
I understand it is very hard to get a felony arrest off your record. If you are asked have you been arrested for a felony you have to answer yes.
Translation: "My lawyer said I better do something quick or I am going to get reamed like an 18 year old pretty boy on his first night in a federal penitentiary."
The official at he dealership obviously made a false statement to the police, which caused them to issue the arrest warrant. Isn’t that a criminal offense?
It’s a Chevy dealer. The owner will just send the bill to the government.
“Screw, them, I think $2.3 million would teach them a lesson.”
My feelings too. Business operates on a relationship of trust between the client and the provider. Filing a false report to cover up your own mistake needs to be punished.
No, $2.2 million is not extreme.
The plaintiff now has a felony arrest on his record for grand theft auto. He's a registered nurse. With that on his record, he will automatically be excluded from employment by many potential employers.
The plaintiff may be able to have the arrest record expunged. But, the NCIC system is a nightmare, and once something is in it, completely getting it out is like playing whack-a-mole.
There are inadvertent mistakes, and there is willful negligence. This was willful negligence. I don't like the lawsuit lottery any more than you do, but this is the kind of case where I have no problem with a huge award that will make headlines.
And I'm not worried about putting anyone at the dealership out of a job, other than the people that actually contributed to this negligence (and I think those should be facing criminal charges, personally). As L in M suggested: the plaintiff just became the majority owner of Priority Auto Group.
The warrant has to be issued from the court, not the police. It then goes to the warrants section where those officers or designates serve the warrant and make the arrest as so stipulated by the warrant.
Whatever work you do or have done, I’m sure you would be offended if you were lumped into the actions of a few who made poor decisions so please cut the garbage of throwing all officers into the same small basket of bad apples. I would have expected at least the same for you in your profession.
This is a case where a business on false pretenses had a customer arrested and charged with theft. We’re not talking about a doctor who practised good medicine but got unjustly sued when his best efforts didn’t prevent the death of a patient.
A man’s civil rights were violated in order to intimidate him into changing a contract. This business needs to learn never to do this type of thing again and other businesses need to take note. As for the amount of the award, it will be up to the judge and jury whether or not the plaintif gets the full amount asked for. The business owner is willing to talk and ‘try to make it good”, so I think the courts will take that into consideration if the aggrieved party wants to be firm on his detirmination to sue!
Must be one of Obama’s selected dealers
The only crime committed is buying a Chevy Traverse for $34,000. Rented one this weekend and it was bland, unexciting, noisy and just plain boring.
He's gonna keep a lot more than $6500. And he won't be driving no steenking GM product....................
So, the employee went to the court to file a complaint? The police never got involved until the warrant was issued?
That's a rhetorical question, if you didn't figure that out.
Whatever work you do or have done, Im sure you would be offended if you were lumped into the actions of a few who made poor decisions so please cut the garbage of throwing all officers into the same small basket of bad apples. I would have expected at least the same for you in your profession.
If you are offended by my comments about the actions of the police in this particular case, then I think you need to sit down and take a hard look at yourself and figure out why you are offended. Are you feeling guilty about something?
If someone in my profession were to make this kind of mistake, I'd be the first person standing up and saying that I'd throw the book at them. The fact that you aren't doing so says volumes about you.
One is generally asked if one has been convicted of a felony, a false arrest with no charges lodged doesn’t have to be reported unless one is being vetted for high security type jobs.
LOL, I was going to post something about "that's what he gets for buying a Government Motors product", but I was worried that some people wouldn't recognize sarcasm......
Have to agree the vehicle is completely average and as a govt motors vehicle I’d be very unlikely to buy one. However, I’d buy a chevy if the dealer paid me $2.2 million to do it.
The key to our success has been the way we treat our customers. Our name Priority says it all. We make you our top priority by putting you first in all that we do. We put you first when you come in for service and we put you first in the value-added services of Priorities for Life when you purchase a vehicle from Priority.
I hope you'll agree there are plenty of reasons to make your next car or truck a Priority.
President, Priority Auto Group
Reminds me of some years ago when I had a car that 'died' before the loan was paid. Still owed about a year on it.
I bought another car, cash in full.
When I went to the bank to explain that the old car was no longer on the road and insurance dropped except for if tree dropped on it - or some such, they tried to get me to switch my new car onto the loan papers.
I laughed out loud and asked "Do I really look like a turnip?"
She chuckled and said: "Well, we had to try."
Makes me wonder what our medical service staff will look like in the future.
Wonder no more.................
“Yep, A contract is a contract, and Brad Anderson needs to do time for a false police report.”
This guy is a registered nurse.
Depending on the state, you have to report any arrest (regardless of convictions) to the licensing board. From what I can tell in a quick search, Virginia does require it.
Even if he doesn't report it, it will show up in a criminal background check -- which is done for all nurses these days, due to government requirements for people handling scheduled drugs. He might be able to get the record expunged, but it's not always successful, even if he gets a legal order to do so.
I got $30 too much at the local Bank of America. When I discovered it a couple of days later I went back to the teller and gave it to her. Her response, “now my drawer is going to be off again.”
Depends on the field. Many companies in my field check for arrests as well as convictions.
Arrests can be explained in some cases and would give the person a chance to explain. In other cases they won’t care.
They can wipe out the arrest record. They do it all the time when they arrest the wrong person.
Exactly - having an arrest on your record - even if proven bogus - is still an arrest warrant on your record.
Wherever you go - apply for a position, etc, that question is on the ap for a "yes" or "no" answer and can cost big time.
In this case, they guy needs to get compensated big time.
2,2 million seems a lot - but nearly half of that will go to legal fees - unless he can make the dealership liable for them - and half will go to the gov't in taxes (taxes , in these cases, are on the FULL amount - no deduction for legal fees. That actually leaves the man with a small chunk.
Indeed, there are cases where the person ends up OWING taxes - 60%A to legal, 50% to taxes ='s 110% of judgment and person still owes 10% in taxes, and cannot file bankuptcy on it.
I remember a case a few years ago where a gal ended up owing additional taxes of $100,000 - which left her in dire straights as the gov't insists on their money NOW.
The big winners in these suits are the lawyers and the gov't.
If that was not enough the dealer wants $39k for another one. Looks to me the dealer thought he had a really uninformed customer and he soon found out otherwise.