Car dealerships off limits to military members

Jordan Crawford | 7/29/2014, 12:21 p.m.

All military branches are allegedly now prohibited from visiting certain used car lots in the Norfolk area and in certain areas of Hampton Roads. The lots are at the center of a Department of Motor Vehicles investigation.

According to sources, last month Rear Adm. Dixon R. Smith, the commander of Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, issued an order barring area Navy personnel from visiting a certain dealership on Virginia Beach Boulevard after learning that dozens of service members had allegedly been ripped off.

On Tuesday, the Joint Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board for Southeastern Virginia and Northeastern North Carolina added several dealerships to its list of establishments that are off limits to all military personnel.

More than 50 complaints have been filed against the dealership. The dealership was placed on the off-limits list in August 2013 but was taken off the list in November after taking steps to reform its business practices. The disciplinary control board had found that the dealership allegedly engaged in unfair business practices, including “bird-dogging”—the illegal tactic of paying a third party to generate successful sales leads. In some cases, dealerships have hired service members to drag their buddies down to the lot.

The board is an investigative committee tasked with identifying conditions that could adversely affect the “health, safety, welfare and discipline” of the armed forces. Businesses can be removed from the list by presenting evidence of corrective action.

According to military.com, there are eight other local businesses on the off-limits list for members of the armed forces.

“The JAFDCB needs to make these scam businesses off-limits for at least a year rather than the on-again-off-again manner they’ve been subscribing to,” said Norfolk resident Martin Harris. “If longer off-limits periods would probably sufficiently motivate these scam dealers to run respectable businesses, especially in this military community.”

Kim Johnson of Norfolk believes longer off-limits periods would be somewhat effective, but realizes that such businesses can easily close and re-open under new names and continue with their shady practices.

“It could turn into hide-and-seek…service members, both young and old, should be educated about what to be aware of so they can avoid such frustrating and even embarrassing situations.”