November 30, 2023

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Entire Tampa Dealer Lot Repossessed

TAMPA — Nearly four months ago, lenders served notice to the owners of Tampa Mitsubishi that they were in default on $6.5 million in loans.

The letter to Tony Mirabella and his out-of-town business partner, Stuart Roffman, gave the pair two months to pay up. Otherwise Kentucky-based Republic Bank said it would seize vehicles from the dealership’s lots as partial payment for its losses.

Tampa Mitsubishi closed suddenly this week. Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputies descended on the property to begin towing away vehicles.

Some customers were stunned and panicked. But court records show the dealership was facing a series complaints that accused it of failing to pay bills and engaging in deceptive sales practices. At least five customers claimed the dealership failed to pay off loans on vehicles they used as trade-ins.

“We want to be clear that at no time have we misrepresented or been deceitful to current or former customers,” said Lisa Brock, a spokeswoman for Mirabella, in a written statement Friday. “We are sincerely sorry for the inconvenience of closing our store. We do, however, have every intention of seeing that all of our obligations are met as we manage through this to ensure that our customers are fairly treated.”

Tampa police confirmed they are investigating at least one complaint by a customer who reported not receiving a title for a vehicle purchased two months ago.

“Right now we don’t know if there’s anything criminal,” said police spokesman Steve Hegarty. “It could be a consumer complaint.”

Gina Hutchins told the Tampa Bay Times that her father, Vern Hutchins, bought a 2016 Mercedes E-class in March for nearly $40,000 in cash. The father and daughter are from Vermont but live in Florida during the winter. They called Tampa police on Friday after learning the dealership had shut down.

They’re well versed in how auto dealerships work: The family business, up until six years ago, was selling John Deere tractors at a dealership of their own.

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