- The Washington Times - Monday, April 11, 2005

Montgomery County is cracking down on illegal used car sales, particularly the ones that regularly take place in a parking lot next to Mid-Pike Plaza in Rockville.

Beginning Saturday, tow trucks will be stationed at the lot to remove any vehicles involved in the sales. The lot is at the intersection of Rockville Pike and Montrose Road.

County officials say the lot is owned by the state and leased by the county, which uses it as a commuter parking facility. But, many so-called “curbstoners” use the lot to illegally sell vehicles, many of which need extensive repairs, officials say.

Curbstoners are car sales agents who pretend to be private persons selling their own vehicles, the county’s Division of Consumer Affairs reports. State law requires a dealer’s license for anyone selling, or offering for sale, three or more vehicles within a 12-month period.

“Unlicensed car dealers try to trick consumers into making bad purchases,” County Executive Douglas M. Duncan said at a press conference at the lot yesterday. “We are glad that the illegal sales haven in the public parking area adjoining Mid-Pike Plaza is being closed down.”

Mr. Duncan then helped erect a sign that reads, “No sale of vehicles or goods on this lot at anytime.”

John B. Creel Jr., a Consumer Affairs investigator, said the lot near the plaza is the largest for curbstoners, but that others are located throughout the county. He said the second-largest lot is in Aspen Hill.

Consumer Affairs has received complaints about curbstoners selling cars that have been wrecked, stolen, damaged in floods, or had their odometers rolled back to show lower mileage.

Curbstoners can face a year in jail and a $5,000 fine if they do not have a dealer’s license.

Authorities have been warning curbstoners at the lot near Mid-Pike Plaza the past two weekends.

Mr. Creel said about 30 curbstoners were checked last weekend. Investigators determined that several cars had emissions failures, or owners had driver’s license suspensions or revocations or expired license plates.

The latest move is aimed at protecting consumers like Andrea Curo, who said she was hoodwinked by a curbstoner last year. Miss Curo, an immigrant from Peru who is self-employed, said she bought a 1995 Toyota in May from a curbstoner for $3,200.

After buying it, she learned that the Toyota had traveled nearly 10,000 miles more than the odometer reading. Miss Curo eventually contacted Consumer Affairs. She said her money was returned and she bought a car from a friend.

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