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Car Dealer Pleads Guilty to Violating Legal Protections for Active-Duty Service Members

BIRMINGHAM—A Cullman used car dealer pleaded guilty last week to violating federal protections for active-duty military service members by refusing to reduce the loan interest rate and repossessing the vehicle he sold to a man who was later deployed overseas with the Alabama National Guard, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance and FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard D. Schwein, Jr.

Carl Ralph Nuss, 75, entered his guilty plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge Harwell G. Davis, III to the two counts of the March indictment charging him with violating the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. The act provides certain protections for service members called to active duty, including interest rate limitations and protection from civil suit, repossession, and eviction.

Nuss entered his plea without a plea agreement with the government. He is scheduled for sentencing September 12.

Nuss is owner of North Alabama Wholesale Autos in Cullman. In February 2011, he sold a 2002 Ford Sport-Trac to a 22-year-old man. The dealership sold the vehicle for $9,746 and, after a $2,200 down payment, financed the balance at 25 percent interest per year, according to the indictment.

In May 2012, the Guardsman, a private first class, was called to active duty in Afghanistan. In July 2012, according to the indictment, Nuss received a letter from the Guardsman requesting that the dealership reduce the interest rate on his car loan from 25 percent to 6 percent, as required by the relief act. Nuss never reduced the interest rate and, two days after receiving the letter, hired two men to repossess the guardsman’s truck. The two men repossessed the vehicle without a court order, in violation of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, the indictment says.

The maximum penalty for each count is one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

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