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'Yes Men' say no to shopper

Accounts differ on a clash between a car salesman and a customer.

By JAMAL THALJI
Published June 12, 2007


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NEW PORT RICHEY - The customer said the car salesmen cursed him, ganged up on him, threw him to the ground and choked him.

No, one of the salesmen said, it was the customer who cursed him, shoved him twice, then tried to throw a punch.

Two different accounts of a shopping trip gone wrong, courtesy of the Pasco County Sheriff's Office and the Circuit Court.

All the combatants agree upon, it seems, is this:

It took place nine months ago at Sun Toyota on U.S. 19, which bills itself as home of the "Yes Men."

It started with a "no."

The sale didn't go through.

* * *

The customer, David Reynolds, filed suit in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court on Friday against Sun Automotive Inc., accusing the dealership's owner of negligence.

The 45-year-old New Port Richey man alleges that while shopping there on Sept. 20, he was "physically assaulted" and suffered "severe" injuries.

His attorney, David Papa, could not be reached for comment Monday. Neither could Reynolds. He was out of the country, said a woman who answered his phone.

* * *

But back on Sept. 20 he told his story to a Pasco deputy:

Reynolds said he was shopping for a van.

But salesman Dean Albanese told him that because of a bankruptcy, Reynolds could not get financing.

They argued. Reynolds said the salesman cursed at him.

Reynolds said Albanese then grabbed him by the neck. Three other salesmen grabbed him and threw him down. Reynolds said he was put in a choke hold. He got away and drove off.

But the deputy saw no injuries on Reynolds. Later, Reynolds' wife handed over medical bills and photos of his injuries.

* * *

Here's what Albanese and the other salesmen told the deputy:

Reynolds was upset when the bankruptcy came up. Reynolds cursed Albanese, who told him to leave the car lot.

Reynolds balled his right fist and attempted a punch, the salesman said, but another salesman restrained the customer. They told Reynolds to leave.

Albanese, 46, could not be reached for comment. He no longer works at Sun Toyota, a manager said Monday. A call to the dealership's customer relations department was not returned.

* * *

The deputy also questioned a 54-year-old man who was with Reynolds, a witness who didn't exactly back up Reynolds' story.

The witness offered this:

Reynolds got mad when Albanese told him his credit was no good. The salesman cursed Reynolds. Reynolds tried to punch Albanese. Three to four other salesmen grabbed Reynolds. One choked him until he passed out. Reynolds regained consciousness, said he would call the police and left.

* * *

The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office decided not to prosecute Albanese for battery.

"Facts and circumstances surrounding this case make successful prosecution unlikely, " the office said.

[Last modified June 11, 2007, 20:54:05]


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