Douglas County district attorney seeking public’s help in investigation of loan practices at Lawrence Kia dealership

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

The Lawrence Kia dealership is pictured June 5, 2020.

Allegations of loan fraud at a Lawrence auto dealership are now drawing the attention of the Douglas County District Attorney’s office.

Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson said Monday he wants to hear from customers of the Lawrence Kia dealership after a recent Journal-World article reported on allegations of loan fraud.

A June 4 article by the Journal-World reported on allegations that customers — perhaps hundreds — had the income levels on loan applications improperly inflated by someone at the dealership, in an effort to get customers loans that they otherwise may not have qualified for.

Branson’s office has a consumer protection division. In a release Monday he said he wanted to hear from people who are concerned their loan applications were improperly altered to determine if a crime has been committed under the Kansas Consumer Protection Act.

The act bars deceptive acts and practices in consumer transactions, Branson said. Each violation of the act can include a $10,000 civil penalty. He said the act also allows prosecutors to get injunctions against businesses found guilty under the act, essentially stopping them from conducting future transactions.

As part of an investigation, the Journal-World received loan documents for 13 recent Lawrence Kia customers from an anonymous source who claimed he previously worked at the dealership. Those loan documents show large discrepancies in the amount of income customers reported to dealer representatives versus what was actually listed as income amounts on official loan documents that were sent to lenders. The source said he had documents from more than 200 transactions where loan values had been inflated.

Two Kia customers who spoke with the Journal-World said they were convinced someone with the dealership had altered the documents sent to lenders. One of the customers had her bank, Wells Fargo, investigate the matter. It determined someone — not the customer — had altered the income.

Chin Rajapaksha, general manager of Lawrence Kia, told the Journal-World that the dealership had identified some “errors” on the part of at least one dealership employee. Rajapaksha said he did not think the errors numbered in the hundreds, but also said the dealership’s investigation was ongoing.

Branson said people can contact his office’s consumer protection division by calling 785-330-2849 or emailing daconsumer@douglascountyks.org.

People calling with information should be prepared to provide their name and contact information, the date of their auto purchase, a summary of how they believe their income was inflated or misreported, the names of any Lawrence Kia employees they interacted with as part of the transaction, and copies of any paperwork they still have from the transaction.

Related story

June 4 — Car buyers allege that loan scheme ensnared hundreds at local dealership; dealer says ‘errors’ were not widespread

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