In my prior post on this topic related to the seizure of motor vehicles by Federal law enforcement agencies alleging wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering, there have been 2 new significant developments.
First, the Government is not not only seizing vehicles which were purchased from dealerships for export to foreign countries, but now seizing bank accounts related to those alleged illegal activities. Fortunately, this attorney has extensive experience in challenging the Government in civil forfeiture cases from California to New York to Florida, and getting the bank account funds returned. What is interesting to note is that the Government, through the U.S. Attorney's Offices, has not yet seized bank account funds by a Seizure Warrant through the criminal process, but only through the civil forfeiture process. Perhaps the attorneys at the U.S. Attorney's Offices, and not the Special Agents for the law enforcement agencies, see a potential weakness in seizing such funds from bank accounts connected with the purchase and intended export of motor vehicles.
Second, the latest development is that the auto dealerships are now first terminating, then suing their former salesperson employees who were selling the motor vehicles to purchasers when the salesperson knew or should have known that the vehicles were either purchased by a 'straw buyer' or were going to be exported from the United States. Auto dealerships have contracts with auto manufacturers (BMW, Land Rover, VW, etc.) not to sell cars for export in order for the auto manufacturers to protect the territory for their overseas dealers, especially in China.
It is hard to believe that that the dealerships did not encourage, or at least consent, to the sale of vehicles to all types of people, including 'straw buyers'. The dealers, under pressure from the auto manufacturers and Federal law enforcement agencies, are attempting to maintain a charade, a farce that the dealerships were not knowingly selling motor vehicles for export. Hopefully, those car salespersons who were unfairly terminated will countersue the dealerships for improper terminations, and seek back pay and other monetary damages.
Please provide comments on this Blog post below. Please call or email me directly with any questions regarding this topic generally.
Peter Quinter, Partner in Charge
Customs and International Trade Law Group
office (305) 416-6960
mobile (954) 270-1864