Wednesday 20 April 2011

Someone you never want to buy a car from

What follows is taken in part from an interesting article recently published by the Toronto Star. I have included my own opinion is some parts of this article.

Timothy (John) Byers has a reputation for bending, twisting and breaking the law. He has run roughshod over authority primarily by selling vehicles illegally or driving them improperly on public highways.

Regulators have loosely called him a ‘curbsider’, someone who sells used cars in a business for profit but portrays himself to a potential buyer as the seller of a personal vehicle. The insidious practice can expose consumers to fraud, leave them without protection and even jeopardize their safety.

It’s a lucrative business. Some industry officials estimate Canada is also losing more than $300 million in sales taxes annually because of the illegal practice.

Byers isn’t one of the biggest offenders of illegally selling vehicles but he remains a chronic burr in the saddle of regulators. He’s also a familiar face in the city’s courts in his pursuit to correct the court’s alleged judicial mistakes.

“What he has done is worse than the technical definition of curbsiding,” says Michael Rothe, the top lawyer for the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council, which regulates the province’s dealers. “He has sold vehicles masquerading as a dealer so the public believes they have the protection of the regulator.”

Byers, a 45-year-old lifelong bachelor, lost his licence as a used-car dealer two years ago. But courts have convicted him not once, but twice since then. And the regulator has charged him a third time.

He has also racked up more than 45 convictions for driving violations since 1981 although only about half a dozen of them have occurred since 2000. Byers’ rap sheet includes licence suspensions for not paying fines — 16 of them.

Paying promptly is not something Byers appears to do willingly. The former dealer has delayed paying driving fines or judgments over customer mistreatment. He has become entangled in long disputes with the Ontario government over hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales taxes.

But Byers fights back hard and has appealed many convictions. He also knows the finer points of the law and legal processes despite a lack of formal higher education.

Byers meanwhile refuted almost every conviction and fine. He talks about bungling and a conspiracy by regulators to silence him over allegations of internal skulduggery. There will be a reckoning in the courts some day, he promises. “You’re going to see I did nothing wrong,” he says. “And you wouldn’t believe what they’ve tried to do to me. You are right or wrong. I am right and it’s quite clear.” Does he also claim to be Napoleon?

Byers came from Thunder Bay, Ontario to the Barrie area as a boy. He had trouble reading and writing. His lawyer suggests he suffers from a form of dyslexia that includes flipping numbers around sometimes. That in my opinion is a feeble excuse for committing outright fraud.

“There is a significant possibility that Tim is misunderstood by some people,” adds lawyer Robert Isles. Are the people that misunderstood him the same people he ripped off with his curbsiding?

While Byers didn’t finish high school, he excelled in tinkering with motors and eventually became a licensed mechanic. He also showed an entrepreneurial flair as a young teenager by selling repaired machines in his neighbourhood.

Byers has dabbled in several vehicle related businesses at the northwest corner of County Road 90 and George Johnston Road, just west of the city of Barrie for years. At one time, Byers owned the property but says he lost it to a lien holder collecting on debts.

His businesses ranged from a repair garage to used car lot and motorcycle shop with names like Fleetwood Auto, Asset Distribution and Repo Centre and Timeout Cycles. A roadside French fry stand and a fun spot called the Broken Spoke Saloon at the back brightened the site. Byers now insists that he no longer has ownership in those businesses.

Up front, Byers fixed and sold vehicles at Fleetwood Auto after gaining his registration as an auto dealer near Christmas 2000. But he ran into trouble with the Ontario Ministry of Revenue. A 2002 audit found he had not remitted thousands of dollars in sales taxes. Byers filed an objection but the ministry ruled he had missed a deadline.

The dispute has dragged for years. At the end of 2008, the outstanding amount including interest had exceeded $260,000, according to government records. But Byers says the government recently dropped its tax claims because of a bureaucratic mix-up. “I don’t owe anyone anything,” he says, noting proudly he holds a five-star credit rating. If you believe that, then you are ready to buy a bridge from me. It’s called the Brooklyn Bridge.

Government officials won’t comment on whether he is still in arrears because of privacy legislation but they note the “matter is ongoing” in court. He ran into more trouble. In 2003, a court convicted him of making a false statement on a safety standards certificate in a vehicle sale. That’s a serious mark against a dealer but Byers says the problem arose because of a simple “clerical error.” When he made that so-called clerical error, was his mind in drive?

A customer later won a $4,500 court judgment against him for misrepresentation in a motorcycle sale. The deal included a warranty on the power train but the customer discovered no coverage when the engine malfunctioned. Byers had not registered the bike with the warranty company. He appealed but lost. The regulator eventually reimbursed the customer when Byers didn’t pay. At the time, an official for the Regulator said the unfortunate customer “was made to jump hoops and was stonewalled” by Byers. Is the same man who says that his credit rating is classed as five star.

In 2007, another customer bought a motorcycle from Byers but experienced numerous problems. She discovered the listed Japanese manufacturer didn’t build it. A court later found Byers had misrepresented the model and the customer won restitution.

Byers countered that the “certificate of origin” for the bike absolved him of blame.

The Regulator paid about $6,200 to the customers in the two cases from a victims’ compensation fund but it says Byers has not repaid the full amounts. As a result, the regulator sought to ban him in 2008 from selling used cars because he had breached registration conditions. It pointed to the driving convictions, tax arrears and lack of disclosure in registration renewal forms.

The Regulator slammed him for “financial irresponsibility” in the tax disputes and a “lack of integrity and honesty” in handling customers. In appealing, Byers said he does not read or write well and staff incorrectly filled out the forms. However, Byers admitted he signed them. Am I to believe that the Government of Ontario licences uneducated dummies to sell vehicles to the public?

Byers also argued he disclosed his convictions when applying for his first registration in 2000 and therefore it wasn’t necessary later. A licence appeal tribunal didn’t accept that excuse and finally revoked his dealer registration in early 2009, concluding that the evidence was “overwhelming” against him.

But less than four months later, the regulator charged him for selling 11 vehicles without a dealer licence through his firm, Asset Distribution & Repo Centre. Obviously, this man believes that he is above the law.

In September 2009, the Regulator charged him again for selling without a licence while he awaited trial on the first counts. This time, the case involved about 30 vehicles but the regulator charged him on a small number.

The Regulator charged him a third time last year for selling seven other vehicles illegally. The three cases involved popular older vehicles such Dodge Caravan minivans and Chevrolet Cavalier compacts.

A court convicted him in the first two cases. Byers received fines totaling $5,000 plus 18 months’ probation. He has appealed both judgments and will probably face a trial this summer on the third count.

Byers has said that he will show that the court relied on misinformation in convicting him. For example, Byers notes he still had his licence when police were investigating him the first time. In the second case, he says the transactions came at an auction. But the Regulator countered by stating that Byers couldn’t repossess his autos and then unload them at such a sale. As the cases continue, Byers stresses he will expose the chairman of the regulator’s board for owning an auction house that sells unsafe vehicles. But Rothe, the Regulator’s lawyer, says Byers doesn’t have any evidence of such conduct. He also underlines that the board has no involvement in decisions about laying charges or revoking licences.

In defence of his driving record, Byers says the government should not have issued several suspensions because of mix-ups in the timing of payments and most driving offences originated when he was young.

Ironically, Byers started a company called Tickets Inc. in 2008 that offered customers help in contesting alleged driving violations. He says it never took off. In any case, it's unlikely he would be licenced by the governing body that licences paralegals.

Among his other business ventures, the Broken Spoke and a limousine service have closed. Police also charged Byers with unlawfully keeping alcohol for sale at the saloon. Investigators found two beer kegs with a sign outside that read “coldest beer in town.” A court convicted and fined him $1,000 earlier this year. Byers, who lives in a modest brick bungalow nearby with a big bus coach in the driveway, says he is appealing, noting he had no connection to the saloon and auto site.

A website promoting the businesses including Fleetwood Auto remains online. But Byers says the site is dormant and cars for sale on it have not been available for years. Used cars, commercial vans, trucks and motorcycles still dot the property along with a provincial emissions testing facility under the ownership of “Barry Peter Byers.”

“He’s litigious and recalcitrant,” says Rothe. “But he’s coming to the end of the road.” Meanwhile, the regulator says it will seek a jail term for Byers if a court convicts him of breaking the dealer legislation again. Where the Regulator failed was in not asking the fraudster to be jailed after his first offence.

Ontario’s new mandatory Marketing Standards for motor vehicle sales, which came into effect on October 1, 1998, helps protect consumers from the types of objectionable advertising practices that were identified on the broadcast, according to Carl Compton, OMVIC’s Registrar and Executive Director.

“Ontario’s new rules are among the toughest you’ll find anywhere,” said Mr. Compton. “They are mandatory rules, not guidelines, and address the types of advertising that were highlighted in the show. They are designed so that new and used motor vehicle dealers tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth in their advertising. It’s that simple. And they are backed by tough enforcement measures.”

The OMVIC Marketing Standards go to the heart of many of the most common consumer concerns about automobile advertising. There are restrictions in the Standards on the use of words and phrases like “demo/used,” “free,” “factory price” and “dealer price.” When it comes to information about pricing and warranties, the Standards require that consumers be told exactly what they are getting and what is not included. For example, price advertising must list any costs not included such as industry-specific taxes, freight charges, pre-delivery inspections and of course administration charges. Warranties must not imply that they cover the entire car or
last for an unlimited time unless that is true. Information about how to obtain full warranty terms and conditions must be included in the advertisement. Additionally, the Standards stipulate that all information set out in advertising, including the “fine print,” must be “sufficiently clear and prominent” so potential customers can easily see and understand the information.

Unfortunately, the OMVIC doesn’t have the manpower to catch all the scumbags that illegally sell motor vehicles. Timothy John Byers obviously isn’t the only crook in the industry but the OMVIC has caught him and others of his ilk. Here are some of the people you would never want to by anything from, let alone a motor vehicle.
Danel Norelco: A court convicted this man and his numbered company (incorporated) of 23 counts of selling vehicles illegally without proper registration documents. He received a $493,750 fine and four months in jail.

Eric Styles: A court found this man and his numbered company guilty of 20 counts of curbsiding and altering odometers. It fined him almost $160,000. Obviously the fine didn’t deter him so he continued breaking the law with respect to selling cars. This time, the court got the message. He needed a bigger penalty. After finding him guilty of 39 more counts, he was given a $375,000 fine and sent to prison for a year.

Adele and Kay-Bee Adebayo: This duo pleaded guilt of seven counts of curbsiding and received a paltry fine of $1,750. Obviously when people such as them get a paltry fine, they treated as a minor business expense. He continued curbsiding and the second time, they pleaded guilty of 12 counts and again they got a paltry fine of $3,000. Did this stop the duo in their tracks? Do people of the Hebrew faith eat pork? Of course not. The duo continued doing their thing and again they were convicted, this time with only 4 counts and again they got a paltry fine of only $1,000. By then, did they finally learn that crime doesn’t pay? Did Al Capone eventually learn that crime doesn’t pay? Again they were curbsiding and after being found guilty of 18 more counts of curbsiding, the court finally awoke from its slumber and fined the duo $36,000 and sent them to jail for six months.

Mohammed Mohammadi and his firm, Canada Flyers: They pleaded guilty of 15 counts and were fined $3,750. Mohammadi later pleaded guilty to another eight counts and was fined a mere $2,000. Did he learn his lesson? Is the pope an atheist? Of course not. He did it again and was hit with a paltry fine of $1,500 for curbsiding 10 more times. He obviously didn’t learn from his experience. He did it again and this time he was fined $5,000 for breaching the law 10 more times. Well, finally the court got the message. However this man wasn’t getting the message. He and his company breach the law 3 more times and they were fined $30,000. Now he got the message.

Victor Zaitsev: was charged with 16 counts of curbsiding and was merely order to cease selling vehicles. Did he obey the order? Do chickens have lips? He was later convicted of three counts of curbsiding and was more than $28,000.

These disreputable vehicle curb sellers finally got the message. But there is a way in which all of their businesses like those run by the scumbags I have described can be like what happened to the passenger pigeon---they disappeared permanently. My proposal works this way.

First, anyone selling a motor vehicle, either through a legally licenced dealership or privately, should be required to seek a registration number from the government and that registration number should be placed in any ad, no matter how the ad appears to the public. If anyone sells a vehicle without a registration number, the penalty for first offence is $5,000 for each vehicle sold. For a second offence, the penalty is increased to $10,000 for each vehicle sold and automatically 30 days in jail. For a third offence, the fine should be $15,000 for each vehicle sold and six months in jail, For every offence after that, the fine should be $20,000 for every vehicle sold and one year in jail. Do you think these scumbags will finally get the message? Do priests believe in God? Oh yeah.

There are ways in which buyers of motor vehicles can be protected from the likes of Timothy John Byers.

Some Canadian provinces require annual or biannual vehicle safety inspections to ensure mechanical integrity and road-worthiness. Others require a safety and emissions inspection upon change of ownership.

Unfortunately, blank inspection certificates often find their way into the black market, sold for a considerable profit to unscrupulous used car dealers and curbstoners (called “curbsiders” in Canada). The certificate paper can then be used to make fake safety inspection certificates for uninspected – and often unsafe – vehicles.

Even without genuine government certificate paper, a third-party inspection document can be an easy way to gain a buyer’s trust.

Smart buyers get ‘independent vehicle safety inspections’ done by a mechanic they know. Others accept the opinions of mechanics referred to them by the car’s seller. When the results of the inspection are printed up on a computer, the hoodwinked customer believes that the inspection is valid. As a buyer, I wouldn’t ever trust a report provided by the seller if the mechanic and the seller are complete strangers to me.

Again, don’t wait until after you’ve bought a used car to have it examined by a trusted mechanic. Get it inspected before you buy, no matter what any so-called inspection documents might say.

Also, you might want to bring a friend who is experienced at buying good cars with you when you buy a car from a legitimate seller or from a private person. Years ago when I had my eye on a particular car in a car dealer’s lot, my friend pointed out to me that the car dealer was once convicted of rolling back the odometers of his cars. We moved on to another car dealer’s lot.

I have a friend who bought a car from a curbside seller of vehicles. It turned out that the car was stolen. It was seized from my friend and he never found the curbside seller. He was out $15,000. Did he get the message? Oh yeah. He certainly did. The message was; Prudence always deserts those who walk blindly into the fire.

1 comment:

Ayaz Ahmad said...

You have done really impressive job here I appreciate you dear and also agree with your thoughts selling cars illegally or maybe generating these people inaccurately in open public streets and with this Canada is really losing heavy amount per year.In USA the rule is apply if you have to become a dealer then you must get a dealer license from the authority of your state I also got my license from now I am able to sale and purchase cars easily and I think Canada apply the same rule then Canad must get rid from illegal sale purchase and also can save about $300 million