“We want to stop this business:” DOJ sues auto parts seller, alleges business practices deceptive, corrupt

CUDAHY -- It's hardly the first time a used auto parts seller has been accused of wrongdoing, but this time, the state is stepping in.

You could drive by Midwest Auto Recycling and never know it's there. It's located in an inconspicuous garage in a Cudahy warehouse -- where trucks pull up to make deliveries. But it hasn't gone unnoticed by the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

The state is suing the used auto parts seller, alleging its business practices are deceptive and corrupt.

"We want to stop this individual business from engaging in what we believe is illegal conduct under consumer protection laws, but we also want to send a message to others," Brad Schimel, Wisconsin attorney general said.

The lawsuit says the online business operates at least 10 websites under 10 different names -- among them, Engine and Transmission World and Engine Shopper.

Some of the websites list an address in Oklahoma or Kansas, but the lawsuit says those are just virtual offices, and all business goes through Cudahy.

"As far as we can tell from our research, it is based out of that one location," Schimel said.

The business is accused of deceptive advertising, for claiming its parts are certified, and misrepresenting parts it sells.

Attorney General Brad Schimel

"Saying an engine has 40,000 miles on it when it has 160,000 miles on it," Schimel said.

And Schimel alleges the warranties don't hold up.

"They have warranties in place that are frankly so elaborate that it makes it impossible for the consumer to take advantage of that warranty," Schimel said.

"You don't treat people that way," Melissa Jones said.

Midwest Auto Recycling

Jones, who is from Stephens City, Virginia said she lost $2,100 when her mechanic ordered her an engine from Engine Transmission World that didn't run properly. She said the second engine sent didn't work either.

"They were very, very rude. They said there would be no more dealings. They weren't going to send anything else out," Jones said.

"We've received complaints from 48 states as well as Canada about this company," Jim Temmer said.

The Wisconsin Better Business Bureau gives Midwest Auto Recycling an F-rating, and said it's gotten more than 300 complaints over the last three years.

Jim Temmer

"The advertising isn't right. It's hard to return. Sometimes the wrong items are shipped or they are dirty, or they aren't what they say that they are," Temmer said.

FOX6's Contact 6 reached out to the company and its owner. Soon after, we got a call from Attorney Doug Rose.

"Corrupt? This is nowhere near corrupt," Rose said.

Rose said the number of complaints represent only a small fraction of sales.

"50,000 transactions. 300 complaints. My math leads me to the conclusion that 49,700 transactions were handled well and appropriately," Rose said.

Doug Rose

Rose said the business operates by buying parts from junkyards and reselling them. He admitted that sometimes, that means finding the part after taking the order.

"The people they work with are very reputable," Rose said.

Rose said when a part fails, it may not be the seller's fault.

"The mechanics are the mechanics, and some of them across the country fail to do the job properly," Rose said.

FOX6 asked Rose why the company has so many different websites, and the addresses in other states, where the business doesn't actually operate.

"They've tried to expand their scope nationally. They increased their volume very significantly by doing that. I think there are places where they haven't yet, but their goal is to do that," Rose said.

Rose asked why the state is inserting itself into a successful business.

"Why the state of Wisconsin feels they need to sue a Wisconsin business that's operating and generating revenue?" Rose said.

"We'd love to have more businesses come to Wisconsin. We just want them to do it the honest, straightforward way," Schimel said.