New lawsuit alleges Ferrari allowed odometer tampering
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A pair of lawsuits filed in Florida is threatening to blow the lid off an alleged illegal practice in Ferrari dealerships worldwide.
Longtime Ferrari salesman Robert 'Bud' Root, who has sold hundreds of the 'Prancing Horse' cars in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach over his 22-year career, is suinf Ferrari of Palm Beach, a dealership, and one of his wealthy clients.
Root claims he was fired after discovering the use of a device designed by the famed car manufacturer in Italy that is capable of rolling back the digital odometers of Ferraris for sale in the lucrative pre-owned market.
Ferrari of Palm Beach salesman Root says the practice - which can only occur if Ferrari headquarters green-lights it electronically - allows well-heeled owners to sell their prized wheels to unsuspecting buyers at grossly inflated prices.
Ferrari corporate is named in the lawsuit since the odometer device cannot function without the blessing of Ferrari in Italy.
David Brodie, Root’s lawyer, is preparing a class action lawsuit against Ferrari that would gather all the owners in the US who believe their cars were tampered with.
If Root's is allegations are proven to be true, the practice could lead to felony charges in Florida and most other states.
In the lawsuit, exclusively obtained by DailyMail.com, Root even named one of his clients, retired Sara Lee food maker CEO C. Steven McMillan, for allegedly paying off one of the dealership's mechanics to roll back the odometer of his car.
Root claims the multi-millionaire, who once made news when he allegedly reneged on the promise to hire a woman at Sara Lee because she wouldn't sleep with him, saw the value of his LaFerrari instantly increase by $1 million when the $3 million sports car's odometer allegedly was rolled back to '0.'
'Mr. Root was falsely and deliberately implicated in one instance of what could turn out to be, numerous, other illegal rollbacks of odometers on Ferraris,' said David Brodie, Root's attorney. 'And Mr. Root was maliciously defamed by those involved.
'The development, distribution and licensing of a device which authorizes and empowers Ferrari dealerships and technicians to perform illegal odometer rollbacks on Ferrari vehicles is patently irresponsible and brings into question the legitimacy of Ferrari odometer readings worldwide.'
Brodie declined to comment further.
When reached at the dealership, Ferrari of Palm Beach in downtown West Palm Beach, Root, who was rehired by the dealership, politely referred questions to Brodie.
The legal hand grenade that exposed the scandal was tossed in what originally was an age discrimination lawsuit in a Palm Beach County circuit court in November then transferred last month to the federal district court.
In the paperwork, plaintiff Root is described as a 71-year chemical engineer by trade, who devoted body and soul to the brand.
Root was recruited by Ferrari of Palm Beach in 2009, according to the complaint. The West Palm Beach company is a part of the New Country Motorcars Group, a network of 35 luxury dealerships with corporate headquarters in upstate New York.
In 2015, the lawsuit reads, Root sold $2 million worth of cars and earned about $200,000 in commissions.
In January 2016, however, Root says he was fired despite the fact he had just sold a car for $1.4 million: a record for that dealership. Root says he was told to clean his desk and escorted out by security.
He was replaced immediately by a 32-year-old woman who, the complaint claims, was General Manager Jay Youmans' mistress - and now his new wife.
The woman, identified in the lawsuit as Noelle Miskulin (now Noelle Miskulin Youmans) had no car sales experience but was a great event and wedding planner.
To add insult to injury, Root claims, Youmans gave her Root's client list - people who tend to buy a new Ferrari regularly.
In his lawsuit, Root even named one of his clients, retired Sara Lee food maker CEO Steven McMillan [pictured above], for allegedly paying off one of the dealership's mechanics to roll back the odometer of his car
The official reason for his firing was 'egregious violation of business ethics' for allegedly facilitating the rollback of McMillan's odometer.
What really happened, Root says, is that he was targeted after he loudly objected to the use of the roll back device, dubbed Deis Tester, because its use could bring criminal charges.
'The Deis Tester,' the lawsuit reads, 'contains a software program for resetting the odometer on a Ferrari to '0.' Ferrari and its affiliates train…technicians throughout the world on the use of the Deis Tester device.
'Each time the Deis Tester is utilized on a Ferrari vehicle, authorization is obtained from Ferrari entities via a wireless network connection.
'Tampering with an odometer with the intent to alter the mileage registered by the odometer is a felony under both state and federal law, as is selling and/or utilizing an odometer altering device.'
In a separate lawsuit that Root filed against McMillan personally, Root claims he told McMillan about the roll back device in passing, mostly to warn him to be on the lookout for cars with extremely low mileage.
Root says McMillan then used the information to convince a mechanic to perform the rollback in exchange for 'off-the-books cash payment,' according to court papers.
Once McMillan brought the car for servicing, other mechanics noticed the subterfuge and ratted out McMillan, who in turn blamed Root.
When reached at his waterfront mansion, McMillan declined comment because of the lawsuit.
'It's b***s**t, that's what it is,' McMillan said. 'Other than that, I can't really talk about it.'
In March 2016, in a stunning turn of events; Ferrari of Palm Beach hired Root because it feared he would would sue.
Since then, Root claims the dealership has engaged in a pattern of retaliation with measures that include forcing the senior to move to an upstairs office that he and clients have difficulties reaching because it's only accessible by steep stairs.
Root filed his court action against the dealership citing retaliation and slander, and continues to work at Ferrari of Palm Beach.
There's another allegation in that court file that also could catch the attention of Florida authorities.
Root claims Ferrari of Palm Beach managers are engaged in a conspiracy with buyers to avoid paying state sales taxes, which can reach $100,000-plus for each Ferrari sold.
Root claims Ferrari of Palm Beach officials 'look the other way' when local buyers registered their new cars with out-of-state shell companies knowing full well they never had the intention to leave the state.
Ferrari of Palm Beach attorney Jason Kairalla issued this statement: 'The dealership does not litigate in the newspaper. Of course, we believe this case is wholly without merit and will be vigorously defended in court.'
Ferrari of North American spokesman Paul Montopoli didn't respond to requests for comment via telephone and email.
- Jose Lambiet, Dailymail.co.uk