Canada’s Worst(?) Used Car Salesman Heads Back to the Slammer, Leaves Misery and At Least One Broken Home in His Wake
First off, let’s recap this shady salesman’s “professional” life. Buckle up for a used car buying nightmare.
Last December, Maxwell, whose registration was terminated in 2015, was sentenced to 30 days in jail after being found in violation of both the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) and the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act (MVDA). Maxwell had falsified employment information on a credit application for a “vulnerable consumer,” then sent it out to several lenders. The consumer then found themself on the hook for three vehicles.
It seems that was both a warmup, and a continuation of prior behavior. According to the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council, the province’s vehicle sales regulator, Maxwell was first registered as a salesperson in 2004, and soon found himself serving 18 months of house arrest for his role in a 2005 insurance fraud case.
Between 2010 and 2013, Maxwell set up shop at Oshawa’s Westbridge Vehicle Sales and Leasing, a business later fined $9,000 for failing to ensure Maxwell didn’t violate the MVDA. From there, he moved to Countryside Motors, which in 2016 received a fine of $5,000 for breaching the same OMVIC code of ethics. Small potato fines, for sure. But this is where the action really ramps up.
On April 19th, following a week-long trail, OMVIC announced Maxwell will serve a 180-day sentence for 10 breaches of the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act and the Consumer Protection Act.
“Evidence presented to the court demonstrated that, among other things, Maxwell sold cars without disclosing accident histories, misled consumers about vehicle conditions, and was untruthful about financing terms,” OMVIC wrote.
Two individual cases stand out as examples of the real-life hardship people can find themselves in after encountering a salesman like Maxwell. Most buyers rely on the salesman to describe a vehicle’s capabilities, and most aren’t well versed in the act of purchasing a vehicle, used or otherwise.
One female customer arrived at Countryside Motors looking for an all-wheel-drive vehicle in which to perform her job as a home health worker, visiting residences in rural — and sometimes very snowy — areas outside of lakeside Oshawa. After her vehicle became stuck in a roadside snowbank, the buyer discovered her vehicle was front-wheel drive.
“The court heard that when the consumer confronted Maxwell about this misrepresentation, he scratched out “AWD” on the sales contract, telling the consumer there was nothing that could be done,” OMVIC reports.
According to the regulator, Maxwell blazed a trail of misery through the traditionally working class Oshawa:
Customers also told the court how they had been pressured by Maxwell into turning over thousands of dollars as deposits on vehicles they wished to purchase, with the money never actually being credited towards the sales. Others described being made by Maxwell to sign financing documents which they were not given an opportunity to read, only for those customers to learn much later that they were obligated to pay interest rates far higher than what they had initially been told. For some, the payments rapidly became unaffordable, with at least one of Maxwell’s customers tearfully recalling how his marriage broke up because of the financial stress.
Maxwell apparently showed no remorse throughout the trial, making “excuses” for his behavior at every turn. In handing down her sentence, Justice of the Peace Constance McIlwain told the defendant,“You deliberately betrayed the trust of the people who relied on you.”
It’s not the first time a predatory salesman exploited the confidence of his customers, nor will it be the last. Still, given the severity of Maxwell’s crimes, OMVIC’s prosecutor sought out a stiff punishment.
“The 180 day sentence handed down is significant and is one of the longest periods of incarceration ordered for a registrant, though there have been longer,” said Terry O’Keefe, OMVIC’s director of communications, in an email to TTAC.
He pointed out a 2012 case where a Belleville, Ontario salesman, Naheed Ali Ramji, sold a new Pontiac G5 to an elderly female customer who thought she was buying a car worth $18,825. Unbeknownst to the customer, the salesman inflated the sticker to $34,000. Factoring in the cost of borrowing, the elderly woman found herself on the hook for $43,000. The same salesman later told a customer they would have to pay him $5,000 cash to arrange the buyout of a lease. The dealer never received the money. For these crimes, Ramji served seven months.
“Sentences meted out to curbsiders have been even more significant, including a 450 day sentence,” O’Keefe said.
Each province in Canada has its own regulations for vehicle sales. While Ontario requires a country-wide criminal background check for prospective salespeople, as well as a check with other jurisdictions in which the applicant has done business, it pays to be on your toes. Ontario consumers can search for breaches of OMVIC’s code of ethics here, and charges and convictions here. Go into the dealer armed with car-buying knowledge, and take a good hard look at that paperwork.
The chances of meeting someone like Maxwell are not high, keep in mind. Of the 1.2 million vehicle transactions in Ontario last year, OMVIC received 1,213 formal consumer complaints. Still, customer beware.
As for Countryside Motors, neither the dealer nor its director, Theodoros (Ted)
Efstathiou, are allowed to trade in motor vehicle sales after failing to pay the fine levied last December.
[Images: Bigstock, Google]