For Immediate Release - May 15, 2012

AG’s Office Seeks Approximately $100,000 in Restitution From Weymouth Driving School

Students Stranded Without Licenses As Driving School Allegedly Fails To Deliver Instructional Hours

BOSTON – A Weymouth driving school has had its financial assets frozen and is facing civil penalties and approximately $100,000 in restitution after it allegedly abandoned its students by abruptly closing, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.

“We allege that this business did not provide the driving hours promised and paid for by its customers,” AG Coakley said. “This business allegedly took advantage of young people trying to earn driver’s licenses which are needed for after-school jobs and other activities crucial to success after high school.”

In Massachusetts, operators under 18 years old are required to complete driver’s education, including 12 hours of behind the wheel instruction, in order to take a road test or become a licensed driver. 

According to the complaint filed in Suffolk Superior Court on Thursday, Wood’s South Shore Auto School, Inc. and its owner Thomas J. Ford, failed to provide students with one driving hour per week as promised in the school’s handbook. This false representation prevented many students from completing driver’s education in a timely manner. Many students allegedly had difficulty scheduling one driving hour per month and at least one student was only able to schedule a single driving hour in six months. 

The complaint also alleges that in November 2011, Mr. Ford indicated to the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) that Wood’s Auto School was unable to schedule driving hours because all of the school’s vehicles were “totaled” by vandals on Halloween night. Through its own investigation, the RMV discovered that the school’s insurer had already paid Wood’s Auto School approximately $26,000 for repairs.

At the end of November, Mr. Ford closed Wood’s Auto School and allegedly sold the “totaled” vehicles and some office supplies. The school also completed loan payments on a fifth vehicle, an undamaged Ford Mustang. Mr. Ford allegedly uses the car personally and transferred its title from the school into his own name. Refunds have not been provided to any of the school’s students.          

The AG’s Office has received almost 30 complaints against the school and according to the RMV about 200 students are owed approximately $61,000 for undelivered services as of the school’s closing. A temporary restraining order filed on Thursday prohibits Ford from dissipating any assets or destroying business related documents. Ford also had his bank accounts frozen at two area banks.

This case is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Mychii Snape and Ann E. Lynch from AG Coakley’s Consumer Protection Division, with assistance from Civil Investigator Jake Harney.

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