I-Team: Local Car Dealer Accused of Lying to Get Loan Approved

Posted at 10:25 PM, Mar 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-17 11:30:09-04

A court found a local car dealership lied about financial numbers on a loan application.  Now that dealership is accused once again of the same deceptive tactic.  As the I-Team discovered consumers had no idea this was going on until their cars were being repossessed.

This is round two with the same dealership for a local consumer protection attorney, and this time the alleged victim is an 82-year-old Milwaukee woman.

Earnestine Walker bought this used Honda last March from Russ Darrow on Brown Deer Road after a flyer came in the mail.  "She had a $35,000 car loan she got preapproved for," daughter Tammy Walker told us.  Ms. Walker's only income is social security, a little less than $800 a month.  Proof of income she says she showed the dealership.  Russ Darrow offered Walker a high interest rate loan with high payments around $700 a month.  Tammy said at first, she was suspicious.  "How did she get approved for this loan?"  Because they really needed the car Tammy pointed out "..we were trying to make it work."

Tammy was helping pay for the car but lost her job, and they fell behind on payments.  When a notice of repossession arrived from the lender Tammy and her mom hired an attorney who claims he discovered something else.  Consumer protection attorney, Rollie Hanson, was researching the case and found what he calls inaccurate figures on Ms. Walker's loan application.  "It appears to have been created at the dealership. That credit application has a highly inflated income on it," Hanson said.

According to the document submitted to the lender , Russ Darrow listed Ms. Walker's retirement income at close to $3,000 a month.  Tammy told us her mother never worked.  The dealership put her social security checks at $1750.  Which would make Ms. Walker's monthly income $4,737 when it's actually just $784.

Hanson and Ms. Walker were in court Monday.  This is a familiar argument for Hanson.  In 2015 Hanson won a case against the same Russ Darrow dealership.  "The dealership had manufactured false information."  He discovered the dealership created a false credit application with inflated income for a different customer.  The court found the dealership violated several state laws.  The buyer was able to keep the car, free and clear and Russ Darrow was ordered to pay Hanson's attorney fees.  "If it happened a little over 2 years ago, and it's happening today perhaps this is something that's done as a matter of course over at this dealership," Hanson told us.

The Walker's want people to know this isn't just about the car.  They feel the dealership took advantage of them.  "What if that was their mom? Or their grandmother? How would they feel? This is my mother."

Tammy told us she and her mom did not look over the credit application or notice the inaccurate figures when they were asked to sign by the financial manager. She also claims they were not given a copy of the credit application.

If you're looking to buy a car it's important to remember to look over everything carefully *before* you sign and get a copy of all documents.

Russ Darrow Statement:

" The Russ Darrow Group places a high value on customer satisfaction, along with our 52-year reputation of doing business in Wisconsin. We pride ourselves on acting with integrity.  Regarding any specific allegations, we are not at liberty to comment, as this is an open small claims case that will be decided by the court."

-Mike Darrow, President Russ Darrow Group


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