Car Salesman Says Deals To Ohio State Players Were Fair
The self-described super salesman who said he sold at least 50 vehicles to Ohio State football players told 10 Investigates that he gave no special deals to athletes.
Aaron Kniffin says that he did not push through deals for players cheaper than for the rest of the public when he worked for Jack Maxton Chevrolet.
"I've sold a lot of other athletes cars," Kniffin said. "Let's go into other sports. I've sold basketball (players) - girls and guys - baseball (players). I've sold a lot of other people cars. They're focusing strictly on football players."
Some of Kniffin's deals with the Ohio State football team have raised questions, 10 Investigates' Paul Aker reported.
Kniffin told Aker that he sold vehicles to the football players through word of mouth.
"I am just the guy people like," Kniffin said. "I didn't make the deal. I didn't finance the deal. I didn't do anything but share that friendship with them. The notion that we gave someone special deals because of who they are, that's just ridiculous. They were just car deals to me."
While Kniffin said they were just ordinary deals, his customers were not typical. On his client list were some of Ohio State's top football players. Some of them gave Kniffin passes to Buckeye games. Kniffin insisted that the free passes never influenced any deals.
Kniffin said that he used the passes on only a few occasions. He said that Ohio State compliance officer Doug Archie asked him to stop, so he did. Ohio State confirmed Kniffin's claim.
"When we discovered (Kniffin) was a car dealer - after conducting an audit - we informed him that he could not get tickets for games because it violates our policy," according to a statement issued by the university.
The car deals continued, including one that involved a Chrysler 300 that Kniffin sold to Ohio State linebacker Thaddeus Gibson in June 2007. The vehicle was less than one-year-old and had 13,700 miles on it. Records showed that Gibson paid $13,700.
Kniffin said that, in his opinion, Gibson did not get a price that was too low. He said that the price was right because of the kind of vehicle Gibson purchased. It was not a loaded version, known as the Chrysler 300C, but something much simpler and cheaper, Kniffin said.
"(Gibson) bought a Chrysler 300 -- just the basic 2.7 rental car -- hubcap car, (with) cloth interior," Kniffin said.
According to Kniffin, he was absolutely sure the car was not a Chrysler 300C.
The distinction between a Chrysler 300 and a 300C is important because of the price difference, Aker reported. A brand new base model Chrysler 300's value was about $10,000 less than the 300C, with its Hemi engine. 10 Investigates ran the car's vehicle identification number and checked with other sources to determine that Gibson's car was a base model, as how Kniffin described it.
Sources also confirmed that it was originally owned by a rental car company.
Jack Maxton Chevrolet management declined to discuss the price that it paid for the car, but 10 Investigates found that there was a wide range in prices at the time of the sale.
Dealers often buy their used cars at wholesale prices from auctions. 10 Investigates obtained auction data from the National Auto Dealers Association. During the month that state records showed the dealership bought the car, the data showed the cars were selling at auctions for an average $18,000, but a low of $13,750.
Kniffin said that the $13,700 Gibson transaction was fair.
"Ohio State athletes are given the same deal as any other customer that would come in, bar none." Kniffin said.
The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles is also investigating whether any of the deals were inappropriate, Aker reported. Kniffin said that he has spoken to BMV investigators.
Stay with 10TV News and 10TV.com for continuing coverage.
May 11, 2011:
Documents Show Former Ohio State Player Paid For Car
May 9, 2011: Agent: NCAA Might Investigate Ohio State Vehicle Allegations
May 7, 2011: Ohio State To Investigate Player-Car Deals