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Saturday, August 18, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Dealer to buy 7 cars back from Alzheimer's patient

The Associated Press

PORTLAND — A Hillsboro auto dealer who sold seven cars to an elderly Alzheimer's patient in one month agreed yesterday to pay more than $100,000 in fines and restitution.

In an arrangement with the Oregon Attorney General's Office, Hillsboro Chrysler Plymouth Jeep Warehouse agreed to reverse all the sales and pay $90,879 to the 78-year-old man who bought the cars at the dealership in February and March last year.

The dealer also paid the Department of Justice $31,000 and the victim's attorney fees.

"Families dealing with aging parents have enough challenges without having unscrupulous salespeople prey on their loved ones," Attorney General Hardy Myers said.

The agreement stops short of saying the dealership violated the law.

General manager Kevin Chimienti said his salespeople not only didn't break the law but didn't know the victim had bought that many cars.

"We sold the gentleman seven cars. It's not illegal to do that," Chimienti said. "But we weren't aware we had sold him seven cars. He dealt with different people."

Chimienti said the man seemed to be aware of what he was doing.

"He did his own banking, grocery shopping and worked on his own cars here," Chimienti said. "When I talked to him, he was as lucid as you or I."

Chimienti said when he found out about the Alzheimer's diagnosis, "we offered to give the money back immediately. We're not here to take advantage of anyone."

Jan Margosian, the attorney general's spokeswoman, called the sales unconscionable.

The man, who has dementia and no driver's license, traded in two of his own vehicles and bought sports cars and sport-utility vehicles totaling $244,708.

"This would be hard to explain even for a non-Alzheimer's customer," Margosian said. "In every case, he paid more for the car than it was worth."

She said in one instance, the man had paid $83,000 for a car with a $43,000 sticker price.

Consumer-protection laws require businesses to avoid selling to people who don't seem to understand what they're doing. Salespeople whose customers make odd requests can always suggest that they discuss the purchase with their families, Margosian said.

As part of the agreement, the dealership must hold special consumer-protection and ethics-training sessions for its salespeople.

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