Alkhatib v. N.Y. Motor Grp. LLC, CV-13-2337 (ARR)

Decision Date03 June 2015
Docket NumberCV-13-5643 (ARR),CV-13-7290 (ARR),CV-13-7291 (ARR),CV-14-2980 (ARR),CV-14-2981 (ARR),CV-13-2337 (ARR)
PartiesANWAR ALKHATIB, Plaintiff, v. NEW YORK MOTOR GROUP LLC, et al., Defendants. SHAHADAT H. TUHIN, Plaintiff, v. NEW YORK MOTOR GROUP LLC, et al., Defendants. SIMON GABRYS, Plaintiff, v. NEW YORK MOTOR GROUP LLC, et al., Defendants. BORIS FREIRE, et al., Plaintiffs, v. NEW YORK MOTOR GROUP LLC, et al., Defendants. ZHENG HUI DONG, Plaintiff, v. NEW YORK MOTOR GROUP LLC, et al., Defendants. NASRIN CHOWDHURY, Plaintiff, v. NEW YORK MOTOR GROUP LLC, et al., Defendants.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)

MEMORANDUM & ORDER AND REPORT & RECOMMENDATION

GOLD, S., Magistrate Judge:

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs in these six related cases allege, among other things, that they were defrauded when they purchased automobiles and obtained financing from defendants. Plaintiffs allege multiple causes of action, including violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO"), the Truth in Lending Act ("TILA"), the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act ("MMWA"), consumer protection laws of New York, and state common law.

Plaintiffs now move for leave to file Amended Complaints to bring the claims alleged in the related cases into conformity, to refine already asserted claims, and to address issues raised by defendants in pre-motion submissions. Docket Entry 71.1 Defendants respond by cross-moving to dismiss the Proposed Amended Complaints pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), in large part by arguing that the complaints fail to satisfy thepleading standard of Rule 9(b). Docket Entry 77, Docket Entry 60 in 13-cv-5643.2 Specifically, the used car dealership defendants, New York Motor Group and Planet Motor Cars, Mamdoh Eltouby, who owns and operates them, and Nada Eltouby, who was at relevant times employed by them, seek dismissal of the RICO claims against them.3 M&T Bank moves to dismiss the RICO, TILA, MMWA, and state law consumer protection claims asserted by plaintiffs against it. Plaintiffs have filed opposition to defendants' cross-motions and a reply in support of their original motion. Docket Entry 80, ("Pls. Reply"). The dealership defendants have filed a reply on their motion, arguing that the RICO claims, as pleaded in the proposed Amended Complaints, are legally deficient, Docket Entry 85, ("NYMG Reply"), as has M&T Bank, Docket Entry 66 in 13-cv-5643, ("M&T Bank Reply"), challenging the sufficiency of the RICO, TILA, MMWA, and state law consumer protection claims made against it.

United States District Judge Ross has referred plaintiffs' motion to amend to me for decision and defendants' cross-motions to dismiss for report and recommendation. Docket Entry 65. I heard oral argument on November 25, 2014. Docket Entries 88-89. Plaintiffs then filed a supplemental letter with a revised proposed amended complaint attached. Docket Entry 92. M&T Bank filed a letter in response. Docket Entry 75 in 13-cv-5643.

FACTS

The facts set out below are drawn primarily from plaintiffs' Proposed Amended Complaints and are deemed true for purposes of the pending motions. Facts drawn from theProposed Amended Complaint ("PAC") filed by Alkhatib explain the retail installment contract ("RIC") scheme in detail. Because the overall alleged scheme is similarly described in the remaining complaints, the discussion of the pleadings filed by the other plaintiffs is more limited and focuses on facts specific to their respective dealings with defendants.4

The Parties

Defendant Mamdoh Eltouby owns and operates defendant New York Motor Group and either owns or has an ownership interest in defendant Planet Motor Cars and non-party Hillside Motors. These entities are dealerships that sell used cars and advertise cars for sale on various Internet sites. A: ¶ 34; T: ¶ 16. Nada Eltouby is Mamdoh Eltouby's daughter and was employed at New York Motor Group and Planet Motor Cars at times relevant to plaintiffs' claims. Nada Eltouby assisted with the sale of automobiles and arranging financing for vehicle purchases. A: ¶ 28. Julio Estrada was an employee of the dealerships whose primary responsibilities included arranging financing for customers buying cars from the dealerships. A: ¶ 30. M&T Bank, Capital One Auto Finance, Inc. ("Capital One"), and Santander Consumer USA, Inc. ("Santander") are financial institutions that provided financing to plaintiffs pursuant to Retail Installment Contracts fraudulently prepared by the dealership defendants.

The Fraudulent Retail Installment Contract Scheme

The following facts are drawn from the PAC filed by plaintiff Alkhatib and generally resemble those alleged by the other plaintiffs. In December 2012, Anwar Alkhatib saw a 2008 Honda Odyssey mini-van advertised on cars.com for a purchase price of $14,995. A: ¶ 34. Afew days later, Alkhatib went to New York Motor Group to inquire about purchasing the vehicle and saw the sale price advertised as $16,995 on the car's window. A: ¶¶ 35-36. After some negotiation, Alkhatib agreed to purchase the car for $14,995, with $10,000 down and the remaining $4,995 financed. A: ¶¶ 37-38. A salesperson then agreed to lower the price to $13,995 and prepared a purchase invoice listing this amount as the sales price. A: ¶¶ 39-40. The salesperson asked Alkhatib to leave a deposit of $200 to keep the deal open and to return the next day to make the financing arrangements. A: ¶¶ 41-42. Although he originally refused to do so, the salesperson also provided Alkhatib with a photocopy of a portion of a service invoice that reflected the $200 deposit. A: ¶¶ 43-44.

When Alkhatib returned the next day, the salesperson told him he had to pay the remainder of the $10,000 down payment before he would be allowed to complete a loan application. A: ¶ 46. After giving the salesperson $9,800, Alkhatib waited approximately two hours before he was introduced to a man identified as "John Figueroa," but who, plaintiffs contend, was in fact defendant Julio Estrada. A: ¶¶ 47-50. Even though Alkhatib had not yet signed a loan application, Figueroa/Estrada (referred to as "Figueroa" below) informed him that two banks had already declined his credit request. A: ¶¶ 51-52. Figueroa refused to provide Alkhatib with the rejection documents and assured him that the banks would send letters to him directly by mail. A: ¶ 53. Alkhatib never received any such letters. A: ¶ 54. Figueroa then reported that Alkhatib had bad credit, leaving him with two options for financing the vehicle, each of which would result in a drastic increase in the car's cost: one option included a $4,500 processing fee, an annual percentage rate of 15%, and a prepayment penalty, while the other required a $1,750 processing fee, an annual percentage rate of 10%, a $2,700 insurance policy, and a $3,000 service contract. A: ¶ 55.

At this point, Alkhatib sought to get his deposit back and go elsewhere, but Figueroa told him that the financing process had begun and that Alkhatib could not cancel it or leave without incurring a penalty equal to 35% of the car's cash price. A: ¶ 56-57. Figueroa also asserted that, if Alkhatib canceled the deal, the dealership would retain the $10,000 cash deposit and Alkhatib would be required to hire a collection company to get even a portion of it back. A: ¶ 58. Alkhatib then offered to pay the entire price for the car in cash. A: ¶ 59. Figueroa, though, insisted that was no longer possible and that, if Alkhatib wished to buy the vehicle and avoid the penalty, he would have to select one of the dealership's financing options. A: ¶ 60.

Alkhatib reluctantly selected the second financing option and was told the $7,450 in additional charges were "security conditions" necessary to obtain the loan. A: ¶¶ 62-63. Figueroa prepared a retail installment contract and purchase agreement that stated the vehicle price was $21,457.50 and failed to itemize the additional processing, insurance and service contract charges. A: ¶ 64. The final retail installment contract indicated that the amount financed was $13,309.53 with a $4,034.67 finance charge and an annual percentage rate of 10.76% - amounting to $17,344 in financing and fees and a total cost exceeding $27,000 for a car that had been advertised for $14,995 and for which Alkhatib at one point offered to pay the full amount in cash. A: ¶¶ 66-68. Although Alkhatib had responded to an Internet ad for New York Motor Group and had traveled to a dealership by that name, the $3,000 service contract indicated that the selling dealership was Planet Motor Cars and listed the vehicle's purchase price as $20,000. A: ¶¶ 76-77.

Figueroa represented to Alkhatib that the insurance policy for which Alkhatib was charged $2,700 would mature into a policy with complete automobile insurance coverage after six months. A: ¶ 72. However, the product was not in fact a replacement for car insurance, but a"Theft Deterrent Product Protection policy." A: ¶ 70. Although Figueroa promised Alkhatib that an insurance card would be mailed to him, Alkhatib never received one. A: ¶¶ 73-74. Moreover, when Alkhatib contacted the provider of the Theft Deterrent policy in attempt to cancel it, he learned he could not do so because the providers of that plan had no record of him having a policy with them in the first place. A: ¶¶ 80-81. Alkhatib contacted both NYMG and Planet Motors Cars about cancelling the "insurance policy" and the service contract, but neither responded to his inquiries. A: ¶¶ 82-86.

New York Motor Group sent the retail installment contract and other information to Capital One via either fax or the Internet. A: ¶ 79. Capital One successfully became an assignee of Alkhatib's loan and continued to send him billing statements and receive monthly payments, at least up to the time Alkhatib filed his complaint. A: ¶ 87.

The other plaintiffs had similar experiences with the dealership defendants. Some were exposed to additional tactics, including...

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