A former employee of Nissan of New Rochelle claims his ex-boss ran up charges and sold him a bogus extended warranty on a used truck.
Pegas Baccas and his father-in-law, Gary Attzs, sued the dealership and owner Anthony Panarella, May 1 in federal court in White Plains.
Baccas was aware that he was being defrauded when he agreed to pay the truck loan last year, the lawsuit states, “but fearing for loss of his job and worried about his ability to provide for his wife and three children, Mr. Baccas decided not to press further at the time.”
“I want to help the guy,” Panarella responded in a telephone interview. “I’m not turning a cold shoulder. But there are a lot of allegations here that are not true.”
Baccas went to work for the dealership as a service technician in 2013. Last year, he noticed a 2010 Range Rover in the shop, the lawsuit states, and asked Panarella for a price.
He claims they agreed on $31,000.
They discussed financing. Baccas’ credit was too low for a loan, so he asked his father-in-law, Attzs, to co-sign.
Attzs asked if he trusted his boss, the lawsuit states, and Baccas assured him that the dealership was trustworthy.
Baccas said a finance officer told him that the $600 to $650 he had budgeted for monthly payments was workable.
But the financing was approved at $691 a month and Baccas couldn’t see the contract signed by Attzs until he made a $1,000 down payment. When he got the contract, the price had increased to $42,075, plus a $5,000 extended warranty. The monthly payment was $850.
For 10 days he tried to set up a meeting with Panarella. When they finally met, he alleges, he was shown a contract that did not match the original paperwork and was forged with his father-in-law’s signature.
Now the extended warranty cost $6,375 and he was being charged $1,000 for key replacement, $1,126 for maintenance and $2,000 for “tire wheel.” The monthly payment had increased to $868.
Panarella agreed to cross off several items, according to the lawsuit, and Baccas agreed to keep the extended warranty.
Three months later, the air conditioning broke and Baccas contacted S-Guard, the extended service company. S-Guard had no record of him or his car.
Panarella gave Baccas a copy of the service contract, according to the lawsuit, and it listed the price of the warranty as $2,800, not $6,375.
Baccas re-contacted S-Guard. Now his name was in the system but the policy was not active because the dealership had never paid for the plan.
Eventually, Baccas was unable to make the monthly payments. On April 4, the Range Rover was repossessed.
He is suing the dealership for alleged fraud, usury and violations of the truth in lending, federal equal credit opportunity and state retail sales laws.
Panarella said that when he becomes aware of a complaint he fixes it.
He was quoted in a 2014 article in Men’s Fitness magazine about the importance of taking care of customers.
“The internal are the employees who are with me every day and the external are the customers who come in to buy a car or get it serviced. If I take care of the internal customer, it will trickle down to the external customer,” he said. “I’m not only responsible for those individuals but for their families as well.”
He said his sales staff negotiated the price and his finance manager assured him that Baccas was fully involved in the negotiations. He said he agreed to take off $4,125 in products that Baccas “saw value in” when he bought the truck.
The Range Rover was sideswiped in a Florida accident in October. Maybe, he speculated, Baccas could not afford to fix it.
“It’s a beautiful truck,” Panarella said. “He wanted it in the worst way. Unfortunately, he got it and realized he couldn’t afford it.”
Getting his father-in-law involved in a “ruinous transaction” that was conducted in front of his co-workers caused Baccas, according to the lawsuit, “depression, extreme embarrassment, stress and emotional distress.”
Baccas moved his family from Brooklyn to Lauder Hills, Florida “in significant part to put the episode behind him.”