A Windsor auto repair shop and owner have been charged for illegal vehicle sales and fined by Ontario’s vehicle sales regulator.
Downtown Auto Center (licensed as 2207113 Ontario Inc.) and owner Mohsen Farahat has pleaded guilty to 20 charges of ‘curbsiding’ — acting as a dealer without registration.
The organization and Farahat were originally charged regarding 45 sold vehicles that had been written off. The vehicles were purchased by Farahat from a salvage auction.
Fines levied total $50,000.
Farahat applied for sales registration in 2012 but was denied after he neglected to provide accurate information in his application. Farahat lost his appeal of this decision, but according to OMVIC, sold vehicles anyway.
“He was well aware that he requires registration to sell vehicles,” said Terry O’Keefe, director of communications and education for OMVIC. “It was industry-specific behaviour that gave OMVIC concern at that time.”
O’Keefe said OMVIC “made it clear” to Farahat that it would be illegal to sell vehicles.
According to OMVIC, curbsiders commonly pose as private sellers and often misrepresent the vehicles they are selling.
“Many are accident-damaged, write-offs, or are odometer-tampered,” according to the regulator.
Curbsiders can be anonymously reported to OMVIC at 1-888-662-8727
OMVIC has 16 investigators who travel around Ontario — all but one of them are former police officers and are permitted to lay charges under the Motor Vehicle Dealers Act.
According to O’Keefe, an investigator attended Downtown Auto Center on a different matter, before recognizing there were illegal sales taking place.
“They are provincial offences,” said O’Keefe. “This is a significant fine and a significant penalty. Hopefully it sends a message to other curbsiders out there.”
There were more than 300 investigations in 2018 with 31 of the businesses charged by OMVIC.
OMVIC enforces the consumer protection act and the Dealers Act, but has no effect on Downtown Auto Center’s ability to operate as a business. That’s up to the Ministry of Transportation and the City of Windsor.
History of by-laws violations
Downtown Auto Center has operated in some capacity since 2010, first on Glengarry Avenue and then on Giles Boulevard.
After moving to Giles Boulevard in June 2016, the City of Windsor’s bylaw enforcement department received multiple complaints regarding the condition of the property.
The property was inspected Aug. 18, 2017, with five different violations noted in a November 2017 report to the city’s licensing committee. Those violations are roughly:
- No licensee shall use their premises for the purpose of wrecking or storing motor vehicles that are no longer operable.
- Owners shall maintain and repair screening fences to separate areas and block views of storage areas.
- No licensee shall use any public right-of-way area as a waiting lane.
- Every owner must keep the service station and sidewalk/street in a clean and neat condition, free from debris.
- Every owner must park all vehicles on the premises in a neat and orderly manner.
A letter outlining the conditions was hand-delivered to Farahat. During follow-up inspections on September 12 and October 11, the by-law officer noted the same conditions still existed.
In November when the city’s licensing committee met to review the by-law enforcement report, it was recommended that the business license for Downtown Auto Center be suspended and then revoked if the owner failed to comply within 30 days.
Additionally, in September 2017 the Ontario College of Trades issued a ‘notice of contravention’ to Farahat and a financial penalty of $250 for practicing in the trades without proper qualifications.
CBC News attempted to reach Farahat but were told he was on vacation by an employee who answered the Downtown Auto Center phone line.
No one from the City of Windsor’s by-law enforcement or licensing departments was available for an interview.