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CALL 6: Auto dealers must pay $590K for unpaid sales tax

Posted at 6:24 PM, May 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-08 18:38:03-04

INDIANAPOLIS -- The owners of several Indianapolis used car dealerships will have to pay $590,437 in restitution to the state of Indiana for unpaid sales taxes, but will avoid serving any prison time.

Amy Lair and Brandi Pierson underreported more than $8.29 million in sales, according to the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, which reached a plea deal with the auto dealers.

“Let this be yet another notice to business owners that we will investigate and prosecute those who fail to fulfill their tax obligations,” Prosecutor Terry Curry stated. “We appreciate the continued cooperation from the Indiana Department of Revenue in investigating and referring suspected criminal activity to our office. This partnership demonstrates the ongoing effort to hold business owners accountable.”

Records show Lair and Pierson have served as owners and managers of car dealerships Indy Auto Brokers, Circle City Auto Connection, Circle City Auto Exchange and Empire Auto Group.

Lair and Pierson were sentenced Monday in the tax evasion case.

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An attorney for the dealership, Mario Garcia, said Lair and Pierson fully cooperated with the investigation.
“We are pleased to have resolved the matter and look forward to moving on after paying taxes which we agreed are owed,” said Garcia in a statement to Call 6 Investigates.

Pierson and Lair are still working for the dealers, however, the Indiana Secretary of State’s office may take action against the dealerships’ licenses now that Lair and Pierson have been convicted of failure to remit taxes.
Empire Auto on Madison Avenue was previously known as Circle City Auto Exchange until they closed and reopened under a new name, records show, and Indy Auto Brokers is now closed as well.

A 2014 audit of Indy Auto Brokers that highlighted discrepancies in the dealership’s state tax forms, according to prosecutors.

Investigators later discovered  that Lair and Pierson failed to remit taxes at three used car dealerships between 2011 and 2016.

The criminal charges and sentencing comes after police raided the dealerships in October.

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Police removed boxes of documents and computers, inspected vehicles and spoke with employees at both car lots.

The Indiana Attorney General’s office is currently suing Circle City Auto Exchange, Circle City Auto Connection and its owners for unfair business practices. The lawsuit goes to trial in February 2018, records show.
The lawsuit alleges the dealership charged unfair prices, offered useless warranties, and sold cars to consumers without disclosing the vehicle’s “total loss” status.

Call 6 Investigates exposed the car lot in 2015 for failing to disclose a car’s crash history.

Call 6 Investigates has spoken with more than a dozen customers of Circle City Auto over the past year and a half, some of whom have filed complaints with the Indiana Secretary of State’s office.

The Secretary of State’s Office said it can help alleged victims with title delivery and dealer complaints. They can be reached at (317) 234-7190.