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Car dealer charged with mistreating guardsman

Mar. 29, 2013 - 10:17AM   |  
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A north Alabama car dealer was indicted on federal charges of refusing to lower the interest rate in a vehicle deal with a National Guard member who was sent to war.

Carl Ralph Nuss, 74, of Cullman was indicted on two counts of violating a federal law that mandates breaks for service members who are called to active duty, federal prosecutors said in a statement Thursday.

Nuss, who owns North Alabama Wholesale Autos, denied doing anything wrong and claimed the guardsman's family was trying to get out of paying for a vehicle.

Authorities said a 22-year-old service member bought a Ford Sport-Trac from Nuss in 2011 and was later called to active duty in Afghanistan. The guardsman requested a reduction in his 25 percent annual interest charge to 6 percent, as required by the law, but Nuss refused, said the statement from prosecutors.

Prosecutors said the dealer then hired two men who repossessed the $9,700 vehicle.

Authorities didn't release the name of the guardsman in the statement, and detailed case records weren't available. The Cullman Times reported that the guardsman was a private first class in the Alabama National Guard in May 2012.

Nuss, speaking in a phone interview, said the man joined the National Guard after purchasing the Sport-Trac and had his mother write a letter seeking special treatment after being deployed to Afghanistan.

“Just because this boy joined the National Guard is no reason for him not to pay me,” Nuss said. “He was behind on payments when I found out he had joined the Guard.”

The dealer said the guardsman still owed $4,200 on the vehicle when it was repossessed. Nuss said he has since sold the vehicle to someone else.

Nuss said he will fight the charges, but a defense lawyer wanted $10,000 to represent him. Nuss said he won't pay.

“Before they're through with me they'll wish they never tangled with me,” he said. “This is a ploy by that family to steal that vehicle.”

Nuss could face a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment and $200,000 in fines if convicted on both counts, prosecutors said.

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