Empire Automotive Group, Inc., of Manchester, New Hampshire plead guilty in Hillsborough County Superior Court, Northern District, to two criminal violations of the Consumer Protection Act. The State alleged that in the course of selling used automobiles to consumers Empire Automotive Group used what are known as “ghost” or “phantom” vehicles during motor vehicle inspections to falsely represent that other vehicles had passed the on-board diagnostic emissions test required by the Division of Motor Vehicles of the New Hampshire Department of Safety. In essence, Empire Automotive Group used a ghost vehicle to perform the diagnostic test in order to pass another vehicle that was subsequently sold to the unsuspecting consumer. The State alleged that Empire Automotive Group used this deceptive practice on 144 vehicles. Empire Automotive Group has since contacted all of the consumers and corrected any deficiencies at its sole cost and expense.
The Court sentenced Empire Automotive Group to pay a fine of $40,000, with $20,000 of that fine suspended, and to reimburse the state $25,000 for legal costs. As conditions of the suspended fines, Empire Automotive Group was ordered not to commit any further violations of the motor vehicle inspection laws or the consumer protection act. Further, Empire Automotive Group must respond to all consumer complaints filed with the Attorney General or the Better Business Bureau within two weeks of receipt.