Courtesy of John Lugo

Unidad Latina en Acción, or ULA, hosted a boycott rally on Wednesday evening in support of a New Haven resident who claimed that a local car dealership scammed her.

Close to 50 participants congregated on the corner of Grand Avenue and East Street — the location of Unique Auto Sales’ car dealership. Organizers and attendees demanded justice for Dunia Dominguez’s claims of auto dealer fraud, in addition to speaking out more broadly against the dealership. John Lugo, ULA’s community organizing director, helped coordinate the event in support of the claims of fraud.

“Unidad Latina believes that these types of actions like the one we are doing today are important to expose businesses that exploit the immigrant community,” Lugo told the News in Spanish. “We will take legal action soon, we will speak with the mayor’s office and the attorney general of the state. But our strength is in the boycott as a form of pressure and education so that our people are educated about their rights.”

Unique Auto Sales declined to comment for this story.

Lugo helped Dominguez, a local resident, to make her claims against Unique Auto Sales public. Dominguez believes that she and her husband were scammed after providing the dealership with a $4,000 down payment in late October on a car they never received.

A Facebook Messenger conversation that Dominguez shared with the News appears to show a Unique Auto Sales salesperson stating the price of the car to be $15,995. According to Lugo, Unique Auto Sales often promotes car sales through Facebook to recruit initial interest and incentivize customers to visit the dealership. Although the person messaging Dominguez did not identify themselves as a Unique Auto Sales employee, the background of the vehicle in the photo was Unique Auto Sales’ building exterior. The details of the car — a 2011 Dodge with around 115,000 miles on it — as described by the alleged salesperson match the details mentioned in the later contract with Unique Auto Sales, except for the price.

Dominguez said her family was misled by the dealership after its staff failed to walk them through the contract — which raised the total price of the car by over $14,000 — and assured them it was consistent with their previous conversations at the dealership.

Dominguez shared with the News a contract between herself and a location that matches Unique Auto Sales’ address. The contract reflects the final price of the car at $30,532.60, including the down payment. Dominguez said in Spanish that she was not aware of the price hike until after she signed the paperwork — which is entirely in English — in good faith. After paying the down payment in late October, Facebook Messenger conversations between Dominguez’s husband and another Unique Auto Sales salesperson show the dealership delaying the car’s delivery as a result of it undergoing maintenance at an auto shop.

“They never delivered the car to us,” Dominguez said. “We never got anything and they won’t return our down payment to us. They threatened to call the police on us and told us the money was now theirs.”

Dominguez said she needed the car for work after her husband was laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic. She told the News that she has been a member of ULA for close to eight years, and thus knew that the organization was in a position to help immigrants like herself demand justice. Three weeks prior to the boycott, Lugo had helped the Dominguez family deliver a letter to the dealership with their demands. Dominguez said that in response, Unique Auto Sales stated that their legal team would contact their family. However, the Dominguez family has yet to receive a reply.

At the demonstration Wednesday evening, other individuals made allegations against Unique Auto Sales, claiming disenfranchisement at the hands of the dealership.

Catherine John, coordinator of Black and Brown United and a member of ULA, told the News that Unique Auto Sales has been “exploiting people with overpriced vehicles, ridiculous rates and lies.”

Rally attendee and local resident Gloria Hernandez told the News that she was concerned by Dominguez’s situation because immigrants often make a concerted effort to acquire assets such as cars. She recalls seeing a staff member of Unique Auto Sales closing the gate that led to the business after they noticed the demonstration was underway.

“It’s a scam,” Hernandez said. “Theft. They take advantage of immigrants.”

According to Hernandez, ULA members held posters on Wednesday reading: “We want justice.”

One user, Tamara Nuñez del Prado, posted a critical review on the dealership’s Google page the day prior to the boycott. Prado’s post read: “Bad business, many people commented that they do not fulfill their deals and take advantage of undocumented peoples, charge excessively, and deceit, we really do not recommend this place to the Latino community.”

The next boycott is scheduled to take place Saturday, Feb. 13.

Larissa Jimenez | larissa.jimenez@yale.edu