Pinellas County Consumer Protection helps put fraudster in prison

Rose Burke

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Owner of defunct Park Auto Mall receives 10-year sentence, ordered to pay restitution

According to a press release, an investigation initiated by Pinellas County Consumer Protection led to the sentencing on Friday of a used car dealership owner who was convicted of taking customer trade-ins and failing to pay off their liens. Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa sentenced Fred Najjar to 10 years in prison and ordered him to pay more than $200,000 in restitution to victims and more than $100,000 in unpaid sales tax to the State of Florida.

Najjar was found guilty last November of multiple counts of scheme to defraud and theft of state funds, both first-degree felonies. The charges stemmed from 36 complaints investigated from 2016 to 2021 by Pinellas County Consumer Protection, working with Florida Department of Revenue and the State Attorney’s Office.

Najjar owned and operated the now-defunct Paul Auto Mall in Pinellas Park. From 2013 to 2018, he engaged in a scheme to pocket the trade-in lien payoff funds while leaving the victims stuck with unpaid liens for cars they no longer owned. Najjar repeatedly misrepresented the status of payoffs before shutting down the business, leaving victims with no recourse. In addition, he pocketed consumer funds for insurance policies and extended warranties.

His actions caused severe damage to consumers’ credit, including thousands of dollars of out-of-pocket costs, civil suits being filed against the consumers by previous lenders, repossessions, and garnished wages at no fault of the consumers. In some cases, the consumers were forced to file for bankruptcy.

“This individual took advantage of a lot of consumers, and we are happy that they are seeing justice with this sentence,” said Consumer Protection Chief Investigator Doug Templeton. “This case is another great example of Consumer Protection collaborating with key partners to stop unscrupulous businesses that seek to take advantage of our residents.”

If you believe that you have been defrauded or wish to report a scam, you can call Pinellas County Consumer Protection at (727) 464-6200 or file a complaint here.

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