The Securities Division of Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita's Office has temporarily revoked the license of a local independent car dealership amid allegations of Indiana State Code violations.
After an audit at West End Auto 2, 1030 West National Avenue, Brazil, Tuesday, Indiana Securities Commissioner Chris Naylor issued an emergency order "in the public interest" to revoke the business license against Donald Ray West personally and as the sole proprietor of the car dealership on Wednesday.
According to the emergency petition paperwork on file at the Clay County Courthouse, members of the Brazil Police Department and the Clay County Prosecutor's Office had been investigating the matter with the assistance of the Securities Division of the Secretary of State's Office for more than a year.
During that time, West and his business allegedly committed various violations of the Indiana Motor Vehicle Manufacturers, Distributors and Dealers Act (IC 9-23-2), including:
* Failure to notify the Securities Division (SD) that a business activity has ceased operation after being legally ordered in a civil suit to vacate the premises Sept. 24,
* Failure to return dealer license plates and interim license plate to the SD after vacating their principal business address (and relocating to 905 West Jackson Street) within 10 days, and
* Failure to remain in good standing with the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Indiana Department of Revenue and the Indiana State Police.
Using the administrative remedies allowed by the SD, West's dealership license was revoked and he cannot function in any capacity as a car dealer/dealership.
In November 2008, the BPD confirmed approximately five civil complaints were filed with the department against West End Auto concerning problems with people not receiving vehicle titles within 31 days of their purchase date.
Subsequently, several people stopped by The Brazil Times to provide information about pending legal matters against West. While investigating these reports, West agreed to be interviewed.
Explaining the legal trouble began sometime in late 2007/early 2008, West said he purchased several vehicles from a Chicago, Ill., dealer who never presented clear titles to the vehicles.
"The shipment from Chicago messed everything up, it cost me $42,000 but I filed paperwork with the state to help people get the titles," West said in a telephone interview in June. "Large businesses have trouble with titles too. You can't always believe what others say."
At that time, West confirmed his dealership had sold more than 297 vehicles and only six customers had problems with receiving their titles.
"I'm sorry for what happened before, but dragging up the past isn't good for my business," he said. "I'm doing what I'm supposed to do. I don't know of anymore problems out there."
But there were more problems, and officials confirmed to The Brazil Times Wednesday law enforcement is continuing to investigate all outstanding complaints against West.
According to the SD, West's license to sell vehicles remains revoked until the Secretary of State (1) modifies or vacates the order or (2) conducts a hearing and issues a final verdict. The Indiana Department of Revenue has also placed a tax block on the transfer dealer license of West End Auto 2.
The Clay County Prosecutor's Office confirmed West has 15 days to respond in writing to the allegations, after which a hearing will be scheduled 15 days later, per the SD office's calendar. If no reply is made, a hearing will be scheduled at their discretion.
"I really appreciate the hard work by the Brazil Police Department and the Secretary of State's Securities Division assistance in this matter," Prosecutor Lee Reberger said, adding that no other local car dealerships are being investigated. "This is an ongoing matter."
According to Indiana state law, a person can legally sell a vehicle in their possession as long as they can produce the clear/legal title at the time of sale.