Lawmakers pass bill to fast track auto sales fraud investigations

MADISON, Wis. (WBAY) - Lawmakers in Madison have passed a bill that makes it easier to investigate fraudulent auto sales. The bill received approval from the Senate and Assembly as federal investigators continue to look into alleged fraud at the former Standard Pre-Owned vehicle consignment shops in Kaukauna and Suamico.

The bill, which passed Tuesday on a voice vote, was co-sponsored by State Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay) and State Rep. David Steffen (R-Green Bay).

Earlier this month, Action 2 News reported on the effort to pass the law. CLICK HERE for the original report.

“From 2014 to 2016, dozens of vehicles on consignment at the car dealership Standard Pre-Owned were sold despite the original vehicle owner not being notified or receiving compensation," says Sen. Cowles. "While complaints flooded into DOT, more Northeast Wisconsin residents found themselves defrauded by Standard Pre-Owned as the lengthy and tedious process of license revocation failed to protect Wisconsinites in these consignment sales.”

In 2016, the Brown County Sheriff's Office served a search warrant at the Suamico property and sent the case to the FBI. The federal authorities continue to investigate.

There are laws to prevent fraud in Wisconsin, but the DOT says, "the process (is) cumbersome" and "leaves the DOT with no effective recourse where consumers are harmed."

The current process allows delays and appeals--sometimes lasting months. In the meantime, the business remains open and operating.

"We want to be able to move this down to a few weeks to a month," Cowles told Action 2 News. "If you have complaints, the agencies can go in there and make a decision and force this person to close their doors."

Cowles says the bill does have parameters so businesses could not be shut down without cause or without valid complaints. It does allow for appeals.

"Now will this totally stop someone from defrauding someone? Probably not, but we think we can lessen the problem if we shorten this time frame," Cowles says.

The bill now goes to Gov. Tony Evers' desk.