CALL 6: Indianapolis auto dealers charged in tax evasion case

INDIANAPOLIS --  Two managers of three Indianapolis used car dealerships were criminally charged Wednesday, six months after those businesses were raided by police.

Amy Lair and Brandi Pierson are accused of underreporting more than $8.29 million in sales at those dealerships.

According to the Marion County Prosecutor's Office, both have agreed to plead guilty to the charges and pay $281,346 from seized funds to the state for unpaid sales taxes.

Records show they’ve served as owners and managers of car dealerships Indy Auto Brokers, Circle City Auto Connection, Circle City Auto Exchange and Empire Auto Group.

Lair, Pierson and the dealerships are accused of failing to report and pay $595,346.55 in taxes to the Indiana Department of Revenue from 2011 to 2016.

Businesses have a duty to collect, hold in trust, and remit sales tax to the Indiana Department of Revenue.

An attorney for the dealership, Mario Garcia, said Lair and Pierson are cooperating.

“We have been working cooperatively with the prosecutor's office to investigate what tax payments may be owed,” said Garcia. “We look forward to reaching an amicable resolution to the matter.” 

The auto dealerships are allowed to continue operating, according to Valerie Warycha, spokesperson for the Indiana Secretary of State’s office.

“We will not be taking action based on the filed charges until there is some sort of conviction, whether that is through a trial or plea agreement process,” said Warycha. “We need the defendants to be found guilty of violating the law as they have been charged and then we will take action against the licenses of those who have been convicted.”

In October, Indianapolis Metro Police, Indiana State Police, the Indiana Secretary of State and the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office served search warrants at Empire Auto on Madison Avenue and Circle City Auto Connection on West Washington Street.

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Police removed boxes of documents and computers, inspected vehicles and spoke with employees at both car lots.

Empire Auto on Madison Avenue was previously known as Circle City Auto Exchange until they closed and reopened under a new name, records show.

The Indiana Attorney General’s office is currently suing Circle City Auto Exchange, Circle City Auto Connection and its owners for unfair business practices. The lawsuit goes to trial in February 2018, records show.

The lawsuit alleges the dealership charged unfair prices, offered useless warranties, and sold cars to consumers without disclosing the vehicle’s “total loss” status.

Call 6 Investigates exposed the car lot in 2015 for failing to disclose a car’s crash history.

Call 6 Investigates has spoken with more than a dozen customers of Circle City Auto over the past year and a half, some of whom have filed complaints with the Indiana Secretary of State’s office.

The Secretary of State’s Office said it can help alleged victims with title delivery and dealer complaints. They can be reached at 317-234-7190.

Empire Auto’s incorporator is listed as Kiona Waters, and the registered agent is Brandi Pierson.

Pierson is a manager at Circle City Auto, according to the lawsuit filed by the Indiana Attorney General.

Circle City Auto Exchange on Madison Avenue officially closed on September 20, according to state records.

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