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Customers share problematic stories about Durango Nissan car dealership

Automotive dealer accused of business malpractice and forgery on lease agreement
Stephanie Morris Nissan closed on Oct. 2 mysteriously and customers have taken issue with how they were treated during its operation. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Stephanie Morris Nissan customers are accusing the now-closed dealership of poor business practices.

The dealership officially closed on Oct. 2 for unknown reasons, which left employees to speculate that the business owed the Nissan corporation or its banks money. Others have indicated that the business ran into trouble for not being able to pay off release of lien agreements on trade-in vehicles.

A Stephanie Morris Nissan location in Sedalia, Missouri also shut its doors last week and removed millions of dollars worth of new vehicles from the lot, according to a story published by The Sedalia Democrat.

Furthermore, records from the Colorado Secretary of State show that the business became delinquent on July 1 in Colorado for failing to file a periodic report.

However, customers are saying that the dealership likely closed because it was involved in shady business practices.

Attempts to contact the dealership again on Wednesday were unsuccessful. According to a city business license, the listed contact for the dealership is the location’s phone number and not a personal number for Stephanie Morris. The Herald left a voice message with the dealership’s sales department seeking comment.

Attempts to contact the dealership via the email listed in the business license for the managing partner Stony Baker failed because the email no longer exists. The business also lists Kim Rider as its accounting manager under the same email address.

Pixelated signatures on a lease agreement

The most incriminating of accusations against the dealership is that of a forgery, where Cedar Hill, New Mexico resident Michelle Gamblin said she was offered a new vehicle to lease on a trade-in without signing a lease agreement or contract.

This occurred when Gamblin wanted to trade-in her 2019 Dodge Ram with only 49,000 miles on the vehicle for a new Nissan Pathfinder.

When Gamblin arrived at the dealership in April to drop off her trade-in vehicle, she says the dealership immediately wanted to give her the vehicle without signing a lease agreement.

When there was discussion about seeing a contract, Gamblin was told that the dealership’s e-signature pads were not working and could not generate a lease agreement that day.

Her husband asked if there was anyway that the couple could sign via email and they were told by the employee that they would have to sign in person.

They were given the keys to the vehicle after. The following week, Gamblin still hadn’t received a lease agreement. She voiced her concern to the dealership about leasing a vehicle without a contract.

She says dealership employees made her sign other paperwork which included authorization to release payoff information for her Dodge Ram, an application for vehicle title and registration, an agreement to provide insurance, a privacy notice, a tax statement and an offer for oil changes.

However, when she left the dealership on April 15, she was not given any sort of information.

“I've never left the dealership without having paperwork,” Gamblin said.

She told General Manager Freddy Stice that she wanted to bring the vehicle back because she was feeling uneasy about the agreement she had with the dealership. She was told that everything was fine. But that Wednesday, she received a call from a member of the finance team, Warren Gutierrez, who told her that her contract was complete, despite Gamblin and her husband never signing a lease agreement with the dealership.

“I should have known better because I have leased and bought a bunch of cars. I knew better but I just took his word,” Gamblin said.

A forwarded email from Gutierrez shows that he emailed her a copy of the lease agreement, which had missing signatures, on April 18. The document she received from the dealership was missing the last page of the lease agreement, which is where the they would’ve signed for the vehicle.

When she confronted the dealership about not signing the lease agreement, she said she was told by the dealership employees that there was nothing they could do about the lease agreement.

She showed the lease agreement to the finance manager at AutoMax in Farmington. She was told this was wrong and that the lease agreement should not be missing signatures.

“He says ‘something just doesn’t seem right’,” Gamblin said of her interaction with the AutoMax finance manager.

Frustrated by the situation, Gamblin then called the Nissan Corporate office and told them what was happening with the lease agreement and asked them to email her what they had on file for the lease agreement. When Nissan Corporate sent her the document on file, the signatures on the document appeared pixelated and didn’t line up on the document lines, indicating to her that their signatures had been forged on the document. In addition, the listed lease date on the document Nissan Corporate had on file was April 26 rather than April 17 on the copy sent to Gamblin.

A screenshot of the contract that Michelle Gamblin says the Nissan corporate office had on file showing pixelated signatures. (Courtesy of Michelle Gamblin)

Also on the lease agreement from April 26 that the corporate offices had on file, the agreed upon value of the vehicle was $46,510 which was roughly $1,600 more than the lease agreement issued to Gamblin on April 17 at $45,065.

“If you ever bought a car and completed e-signatures, they almost look perfect. This didn’t,” Gamblin said.

Gamblin told the Nissan Corporate office that she never signed the document on file. Another problem with the document the dealership had on file is that it had Gamblin and her husband agreeing to the lease on April 17 when they were at the dealership on April 15.

On June 23, Gamblin requested Nissan conduct an investigation on the Stephanie Morris location in Durango. She was contacted by the corporate office, which alerted her that the document could’ve been procured.

On the left, a lease agreement for the 2023 Nissan Pathfinder showing an agreed upon price value of $45,065 compared to the document on the right which was on file with Nissan corporate offices showing an agreed upon value of 46,510 on April 26.

On July 7, Gamblin received an letter from a Nissan Corporate Fraud Investigator saying the company has determined that fraudulent activity was committed.

“We have received the documentation provided and we have determined that the above referenced account may have been wrongfully procured with your personal information. The credit reporting agencies used by Nissan Motor Acceptance Company LLC (NMAC)/ Infinity Financial Service (IFS) have been notified to permanently delete this account from your credit history,” the letter said.

Because her contract had been canceled by the Nissan corporate offices, she had to return the vehicle. She said her trade-in vehicle, the 2019 Dodge Ram, was never given back and was not reimbursed for its trade-in value.

Gamblin said in a letter she sent to the Colorado Department of Revenue that her Dodge Ram was worth around $40,000 and that she still owed $21,899 on it.

This is not the first time Stephanie Morris Nissan has been accused of forging customer signatures. In March, a Stephanie Morris Nissan finance employee at the Sedalia dealership was charged with felony forgery, according to a story from KMMO in Pettis County, Missouri.

The story said that “the victim requested a sales contract from the dealer several times and eventually obtained one from the Nissan Corporation at which time he noticed his electronic signature had allegedly been forged.”

The Pettis County Sheriff’s Department completed a search warrant in March and seized a packet, which contained the victim’s paper work.

The electronic signature on the documents was observed to be completely different from the signature on the sales contract and appeared to also have been allegedly forged, according to the story.

Trade-in trouble

A customer from Cortez, Alan Niswander, told The Durango Herald in an email that he traded in his 2018 Chevy Impala last month for a new Nissan vehicle. But four weeks later, his finance company called and told him his car had not been paid off.

Niswander said he traded in his vehicle and the dealership was supposed to take on the remainder of the payments for his existing car loan in order for him to get a new trade-in vehicle.

However, it appeared Nissan was not holding up its end of the bargain.

“Four weeks later our finance company reached out to us and told us that the car had not been paid off. As of today, we are almost 60 days overdue,” Niswander said in the email. “We cannot afford two car payments. We don't even know if the paperwork was submitted for the new truck.”

Furthermore, Gamblin also noticed that her bank account used to make payments on the 2019 Dodge Ram, had been charged when the dealership was supposed to be taking over the payments.

She said it took Stephanie Morris Nissan close to 37 days to make an official payment on her trade-in vehicle and was never reimbursed for the money she was charged.

Lack of vehicle history transparency

Another customer, Elissa Flack, she said that the dealership sold her a used car that was previously in an crash, but did not disclose this information to Flack upon purchase.

After purchasing the vehicle, Flack noticed that the vehicle was not working properly. She conducted a vehicle identification number inspection and found out the vehicle had been involved in a crash.

“A week after I bought it, I just noticed some things seemed a little off like my heater wasn't working correctly. It was blowing hot air on my driver side, but cold air on my passenger side,” she said

She also noticed that the door was making a funny noise when she shut it.

The VIN report revealed the crash had occurred somewhere in Oklahoma, and it resulted in the car having its door panel replaced with an aftermarket part. She paid for the police report from the crash and found that the vehicle wasn’t totaled, but enough damage was done for it to be taken to a repair shop.

She thought the driver’s side door was suspicious when there wasn’t an informational sticker on the door. This led her to ask the person who wrecked the car if they had replaced the door, and they admitted to doing so.

Strong-arm tactics

For Aztec customer Jerry Alcon, he felt misled into paying more for a vehicle than was agreed upon by the dealership.

Alcon alleges that he had a deal with the dealership to purchase a 2016 Nissan Rogue for $20,000 with a $1,000 down payment. Alcon said this was all that he could afford at the time because he was on a budget. However, when the time came to make the purchase, the price had increased to $30,000.

“They already had me hooked for the $1,000 (down payment),” Alcon said.

He alleges that when confronting the dealership about the change in price, employees told him it was a result of interest rates. Despite this, Alcon purchased the vehicle and was automatically sold a three-year protection plan that Nissan provides called a Security+Plus plan.

He also said that the dealership was drastically upselling the vehicle, saying the book value on the vehicle was only about $17,000.

However, Alcon said he already had an extended protection plan from a truck he’d bought previously through Nissan that covered five years. He had two years left on that protection policy and wanted to put his new vehicle under that same policy.

He was able to contact the respective parties to receive papers to cancel the policy. But when he was sent the cancellation papers, the Security+Plus department had notified him that he was owed $2,415 as a refund on the policy.

However, Alcon says he never received the refund. He tried contacting Nissan about the refund but said that the dealership continued to dodge his calls.

Alcon said he has a trial in small claims court on Nov. 17 in Durango to see if he can settle the issue with the dealership, but is concerned representation from the dealership will not show up because of its recent issues.


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