Today, we conclude our look at so-called Curbers: con artists dedicated to separating you from your hard-earned cash by selling you a vehicle that is not all it seems to be…
Bringing a curber conman to justice can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
While penalties can be high, many successful prosecutions may yield a fine of just a few hundred dollars. One case currently before the courts is five days into a trial over a $288 ticket. The costs to date of further action against the offender are now approaching $80,000.
At first sight, one might think it appropriate to save public cash but the problem is allowing a dismissal to occur sets a dangerous precedent that could harm future prosecutions.
Because the matter is still before the court, the accused’s name is withheld but the circumstances can be revealed because they are instructive. The Surrey man has undergone continuous legal action by the VSA (in partnership with the City of Surrey). The Provincial Court found him guilty on three charges of curbing. He continued to curb so the VSA obtained an injunction from the BC Supreme Court. That did not deter him so the VSA applied to the BC Supreme Court to find him in contempt of court. If successful the man will face a fine of $10,000 if found curbing again.
This form of con clearly can be very profitable, if the perpetrators figure fines and legal expenditures are merely the cost of doing business. However, the following cases illustrates typical curber practices and the penalties they could face.
One prolific curber was convicted with 31 counts of fraud. He was buying vehicles wholesale from licensed dealers and selling them to the public. He rolled back more than two million kilometres. He was fined $31,000, two vehicles were seized from him, and he was put on probation for three years.
A curber from Williams Lake claimed he sold cars as a hobby. After several tickets and warnings from the VSA, Crown Counsel issued court charges against him. After pleading guilty, he was fined $2,000. The legislation allows for a maximum fine of up to $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for corporations.
A Delta man was convicted of fraud – 15 charges with evidence of odometer tampering, inaccurate vehicle histories, sales tax violations and other deliberately deceptive practices. Crown Prosecutor said he targeted the most vulnerable consumers, such as recent immigrants who had poor English. There was deliberate planning to perpetrate each fraud – finding a low priced vehicle, rolling back the odometer, detailing to improve the appearance of the vehicle, creating a false history, finding a suitable “victim,” forging official documents and tax fraud. This occurred on more than one occasion.
As the buyers were “complicit” in the fraud, there was no consumer restitution for 12 of the 15 counts. They agreed to false documentation to save on taxes – a common practice used by curbers. This makes consumers fearful to go to authorities when something goes awry.
He received a one-year conditional sentence (effectively house arrest, except for medical emergencies or to work, with the terms easing as the year progresses). He also agreed to perform 100 hours of community service.
I’m indebted to the Vehicle Sales Authority of BC for providing the research necessary for produce last week’s typical curber profile story and today’s account of real scams. Please, if you don’t want to buy from an established dealership, do your due diligence as to the registration and condition of the vehicle you plan to buy.