The problems are a contrast from three years ago, when Nissan and the dealer partners marched into Michigan with fanfare.
Saporito and Pro Bowler Armstead joined forces opening Hamilton Honda in 2009 in Hamilton Township, N.J. Super Bowl winner Pierce joined the auto-retailing team thereafter. Armstead and Pierce are onetime Washington Redskins teammates who each also played for the New York Giants.
The group also owns Hazleton Honda in Hazle Township, Pa., and Englewood Cliffs Cadillac in Englewood Cliffs, N.J. Those stores, plus Hamilton Honda, are operating, according to Honda and General Motors.
Both Honda stores are past winners of the brand's President's Award. In 2014, GM CEO Mary Barra visited the group's Cadillac dealership, taking a picture with Saporito, Armstead and Pierce. "This team understands how to earn customers for life," Barra posted on Twitter.
With the All Pro expansion, Saporito moved one of his key associates from the New Jersey operations to be general manager of the Dearborn store.
"We're confident that it's possible to sell Nissans in a market where the common thinking says you can't," Saporito told Automotive News for a February 2016 story.
But in just a few years, their dreams could be sacked.
An employee at the Dearborn location told NMAC's auditor that vehicles from the store had been sent to B&Z Auto Enterprises in New York City with the intent of selling them, according to an affidavit of Hugh Johnson, NMAC's manager of special credit. Counsel for B&Z Auto confirmed that B&Z purchased "several vehicles from Mr. Saporito's entities," the affidavit said.
"In a subsequent telephone call between Saporito and me, Saporito confirmed the vehicles were sent to auction, that dealerships had received funds for the auction, but that Saporito did not know where the money went," according to Johnson's affidavit. "Also by telephone, Saporito informed me that the vehicles were sent to auction in part because the business of the Saporito Group entities was a 'house of cards.' "
NMAC demanded but did not receive payment of more than $9.3 million by Aug. 10. The two stores and Hazleton Nissan had 657 vehicles valued at more than $16.3 million located at the dealerships, according to court records.
A temporary restraining order in Michigan on Aug. 14 prohibits the dealerships from disposing of or concealing vehicles.
A similar lawsuit was filed by NMAC in Luzerne County, Pa.
On Friday, the parties filed to extend the restraining order for the Nissan stores until Sept. 28.