NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Bernel Green smiled as he held a check he's tried to get for more than a year after purchasing a 2008 Hummer from Premier Honda in New Orleans East. He said he was the victim of a scheme between two former top-level managers at the dealership.
"The day I walked into that dealership, it was a $1,000 down payment, and after I paid the $1,000, the next morning I was informed that I needed to bring in another $500 for the down payment," Green said.
Green said a salesman even showed up at his workplace to collect the money, which Green said he paid in cash.
"So, I thought I was done. I paid my $1,500. I then got another call from Premier Honda saying to bring them $500 or they'd take the car back," he said.
Green said he went back to the dealership and was told to write a check for $500, which would be held until the $500 he'd given to the salesman was turned in to the finance department. Green said Premier Honda, however, cashed his check a couple of days later - and he was out $500.
"I went to Honda numerous times to get my $500 because I had already paid my $1,500. I had a contract. Where's my $500?" Green said.
Green continued to ask questions, but he said when he saw FOX 8's story on the managers' scheme, everything fell into place.
Former managers Bryan Ashley Collins, 47, and Lawrence "Mike" Thornton, 46, were arrested, accused of stealing thousands of dollars in customer down payments.
"This was a Ponzi scheme. You collect from the newest guy to pay off the oldest debt. You never catch up, and eventually the house of cards is going to fall down. That's what happened to those guys," says FOX 8 Legal Analyst Joe Raspanti.
Collins and Thornton were both fired from the company. The Premier Automotive Group set up a hotline for customers to make claims if they felt they were a victim of the scheme.
"We've gotten several calls today from concerned customers, all with different situations," said Premier President Jim Evans.
Evans said every call is taken seriously, and if a customer has a legitimate claim, they will be made whole.
Premier Honda wants to hear from customers worried about their transactions. You can call 940-1561 to discuss your concerns.