Local car dealer with history of cheating customers violated state regulations for years

VIDEO: Action 9 exposes a car dealership's history of cheating customers and taxpayers

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Reliable Motors, a local car dealership with a history of cheating customers, the state and taxpayers, has been violating state regulations for two years and its owner is facing criminal charges.

Consumer investigator Todd Ulrich is now asking state regulators why the business still has a state license.

Aaron Hachenberg needed a bigger vehicle for a growing family. He bought his 2006 Nissan Pathfinder from Reliable Motors near and paid $5,500.

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Driving it home, Hachenberg said the check engine light glowed orange.

“So right away it's ‘oh great’ and ‘here we go,’ you know,” Hachenberg said.

That same week, a repair expert found the transmission failing and had to be replaced.

Hachenberg said the sale included a seven-day warranty covering the transmission, but then Reliable Motors refused to cover it.

His is just one of 17 customer complaints WFTV found since first reporting the problem at Reliable Motors.

What's far more disturbing is what state investigators kept finding since 2017.

Two years of investigation records at Florida's Department of Motor Vehicles show the state found the dealership failed to honor contracts, and delayed title transfers - in one case for a year and a half.

The agency cited the dealership for 37 violations of state regulations, as far as we can see, it's never been fined.

WFTV found its top manager, Lawrence Lockhart, is serving probation for stealing $37,000 in state sales taxes at another dealership.

The woman who owns Reliable Motors, Cher Brutus, is serving probation for financial fraud after stealing $54,000 in state sales taxes at her dealership.

Brutus now faces another grand theft charge, accused of stealing $151,000 in sales taxes at Reliable Motors.

The dealership's owner told Action 9 it's surrendering its state license and Reliable Motors has closed.

But DMV officials said it won't allow that so its investigation can remain open and the agency will pursue the strongest sanctions that the law allows.