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Honda Dealers Testify They Thought Payoffs Were Required

March 2, 1995

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) _ An American Honda Motor Co. executive received more than $100,000 from three New Jersey dealers who thought the payoffs were necessary to get fair treatment from the automaker, the dealers testified Wednesday.

William Vince, Clarence Fincher and Rod Ryan testified they and two other partners bribed John Billmyer with cash, jewelry, a car and a $5,000 gift certificate from an expensive clothing store to furnish them with hot-selling Hondas and Acuras, which were in scarce supply. Billmyer, of Raleigh, N.C., is retired.

They said they made the payoffs at the urging of John Conway, a former Honda executive who has since pleaded guilty and faces five years in prison for conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

``John said that was the only way you could be assured of getting fair treatment and not being at a disadvantage,″ Fincher told the federal jury.

Ryan, of Far Hills, N.J., testified he met Billmyer on a trip to the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and passed him an envelope with $25,000 _ $5,000 from each of the five partners.

Billmyer, Honda’s top American sales executive from 1983 to 1988, and Dennis Josleyn of Penn Valley, Calif., faces charges ranging from racketeering and mail fraud to conspiracy. Josleyn faces 30 years in prison if convicted and Billmyer five years.

Josleyn, Billmyer and others are accused of accepting $15 million in cash and gifts in exchange for giving dealers in more than 30 states favorable treatment. Twenty former executives, dealers, lawyers and businessmen have pleaded guilty.

The defendants say they didn’t do anything illegal, and even if they had, it happened too long ago to prosecute them. The men contend they were just trying to do a good job for the company, and American Honda considered the payoffs an unofficial perk. The Torrance, Calif.-based company denies that claim.

The case unfolded when a dealer in Concord and Manchester sued American Honda, claiming he had been treated unfairly.

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