WKYT Investigates: Auto Plaza USA customers finally getting money back

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - After WKYT's five-month investigation into customers of Auto Plaza USA receiving unexpected tax bills, one of the customers we interviewed got their money back.

WKYT met Lori Taylor at her home in May. "I immediately thought, they're committing fraud," she told WKYT's Miranda Combs at the time. She showed proof that she had paid a tax bill that was already paid when she bought the vehicle. WKYT uncovered hundreds of similar stories over the next few months.

On August 2nd, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear filed a million dollar lawsuit against Auto Plaza USA for collecting vehicle taxes from customers and then changing documents to avoid making the correct payment to the Department of Revenue.

A week after the AG's Office filed that lawsuit, the Kentucky Motor Vehicle Commission signed a consent decree with Auto Plaza, saying the dealership would stay in business, but they have to pay back the 1400 customers affected which comes to more than $600,000, including penalties.

Combs met Taylor in Lexington Tuesday afternoon as she attempted to get her money back. "What bothers you the most?" Combs asked.

"The fact that they are getting away with it. If I went in and robbed a bank, do you think there's any chance that my punishment would be to just pay back the money that I stole?" Taylor responded.

For many customers WKYT has spoken with, allowing the dealership to stay in business is a sticking point. Beshear said Wednesday they would continue with their lawsuit, even though the Motor Vehicle Commission has stepped in too. "After we see that Auto Plaza has made everyone whole, that's when I think we move into the penalty phase. I'm Kentucky's attorney general. It's my job to make sure that businesses treat people fairly," he said.

The Motor Vehicle Commission has the lawful authority to take a dealer's license. However, they believe Auto Plaza can best pay back customers by staying in business. The commission said they would have a close eye on the dealership moving forward.

As for Taylor, she called the Department of Revenue, who told her to call Auto Plaza USA to get her refund. She sent Auto Plaza her original tax bill and receipt that she had paid it. Within 24 hours, Auto Plaza returned her money.

However, the Department of Revenue the following statement asking that affected customers go through the Motor Vehicle Commission:
"We understand taxpayers are eager to get this reimbursement settled. The Kentucky Department of Revenue (DOR) is working closely with the Motor Vehicle Commission on the best and fastest way to help those individuals who have been impacted by Auto Plaza USA's failure to pay the appropriate taxes on behalf of their customers."

The Motor Vehicle Commission is taking the lead on this issue. Customers who believe they have been affected are encouraged to visit the Motor Vehicle Commission website to download the official Complaint Form and return it to the Commission, along with any notices from the Kentucky Department of Revenue showing taxes, penalties and interest due.

If customers need proof of payment documentation from DOR, to then submit to MVC, they are asked to email DOR at KRC.WEBResponseMotorVehicleUsageTax@ky.gov or call Richard Shearer, Motor Vehicle Usage Tax Supervisor at 502-564-6468.

Our goal is to make each taxpayer whole, as quickly as possible. We appreciate continued patience as we all work together to resolve this issue.

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