Welcome to the Department of Justice, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller

For immediate release -- Friday, October 31, 1997.

Jon Zuspann Banned from Auto Sales for 30 Years

Attorney General alleged that Ft. Dodge auto dealer conspired to create false damage disclosure statement. Zuspann and Kim Russell plead guilty to criminal charges.

Ft. Dodge auto dealer Jon Zuspann has pled guilty to criminal charges filed as a result of an investigation by the Attorney General's Office and the state Department of Transportation. Zuspann was ordered not to hold a motor vehicle dealer's license in Iowa or any other state for a probation period of two years and thirty years after that.

"We alleged that Zuspann conspired with Kim Russell, owner of Freedom Auto Sales in Ft. Dodge, to obtain a false damage disclosure statement in order to conceal the fact that an auto had suffered about $9,000 in damages," Attorney General Tom Miller said.

Miller said Zuspann pled guilty this week in Webster County District Court in Ft. Dodge to an aggravated misdemeanor criminal charge of "soliciting a fraudulent practice." On Monday, District Court Judge Kurt L. Wilke sentenced Zuspann to up to two years in prison, but suspended the prison sentence as long as Zuspann complies with terms of probation.

Zuspann was ordered not to hold or apply for a motor vehicle dealer's license in Iowa or any other state for a two-year probation period and for thirty years after that. He was ordered not to attend any auto auctions, not to work for any business selling, leasing or repairing motor vehicles, and not to buy or sell any motor vehicles other than up to two per year for his personal use. Wilke also ordered Zuspann to pay a $500 fine.

Kim Russell pled guilty to a serious misdemeanor charge of soliciting a fraudulent practice. She was ordered to give up the dealer's license for Freedom Auto Sales and prohibited from holding an Iowa motor vehicle dealer's license for ten years.

According to documents filed in the case, the charges were based on allegations that Zuspann and Russell attempted to obtain a false damage disclosure statement for a 1995 Ford Probe. The car was involved in a collision that caused over $9,000 in damage, according to two independent body shop estimates obtained by its owner, Lisa Schaumburg of Ft. Dodge. Instead of repairing the car, Schaumburg received an $8,000 insurance settlement and sold the car for $2300 to Zuspann and Russell.

Jon Zuspann, who negotiated the $2300 purchase for Russell, refused to pay Schaumburg a $3,000 asking price for the Probe, indicating that $3,000 was too much to pay given the extent of damage to the vehicle.

After the sale, Schaumburg completed the back of her title, indicating that the vehicle was sold to Zuspann and that it had sustained damage of $8,000 while she was owner. Within a couple of days, Zuspann contacted Schaumburg and demanded that the damage disclosure be changed, according to court documents, but Schaumburg refused. Schaumburg contacted the Webster County Treasurer's Office regarding the situation and was referred to the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division. Miller's office then assisted Schaumburg and investigated Zuspann's repeated efforts, in cooperation with Russell, to force Schaumburg to falsify the statement so there would be no disclosure of prior damage.

"We very much appreciate Lisa Schaumburg's honesty, even when Zuspann exerted strong pressure on her to falsify the damage disclosure statement," Miller said. "We are grateful for the cooperation she gave us in investigating this matter."

Miller said his office also had taken action in 1995 against Zuspann and his dealership, Zuspann Auto Brokers, for selling flood-damaged cars without disclosing the prior damage to consumers. Zuspann paid $20,000 in settlement of the complaint, and his dealership closed shortly thereafter.

"Failure to disclose prior damage is a very serious violation," Miller said. "When a vehicle has suffered substantial damage, of course its value drops substantially and sometimes it may even have safety problems. These are things any buyer is entitled to know, and that's why we treat it so seriously when someone falsifies damage statements. We insist on accuracy and honesty when it comes to disclosing prior damage."