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Attorney General files lawsuit against Kanawha City car lot

Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 5:00 PM EDT
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KANAWHA CITY, W.Va. (WSAZ) - When you buy a car, you expect it will get you to where you need to go and trust that it will be reliable for years to come.

More than a dozen people thought that would be the case after they shelled out thousands of dollars to a car lot in Kanawha City.

Those individuals later found out, however, there were major problems with the vehicles, they didn’t know about.

“It would’ve collapsed and it would’ve killed me,” said Shane Hammack.

As a disabled Army veteran, he’s no stranger to danger.

“When I found that out, it was sickening,” he said.

Hammack needed some wheels, so in October 2019 he bought a used vehicle from Mr. V and Sons in Kanawha City.

“I take pride to maintain my equipment, as I did in the military,” he said.

Between the cost of the vehicle and repairs, he spent about $4,000. But when inspection time came, so did the ultimate sticker shock.

Shane Hammack says he was sold a car with undisclosed issues, a violation of the law.
Shane Hammack says he was sold a car with undisclosed issues, a violation of the law.(WSAZ)

Mechanics found 14 inches of rust under the driver’s seat and a frame so severely damaged, it could never pass an inspection.

“Now all I have is a lawn ornament,” he said.

Hammack ended up selling the vehicle for scrap parts for $800 after Mr. V and Sons told him he should’ve looked underneath the vehicle and they weren’t responsible.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey says it’s not the first complaint his office received about the auto company.

“You want to make sure that the laws are being followed and consumers aren’t getting ripped off,” Morrisey said.

Altogether, 19 formal complaints have been filed since 2014.

“Documents not being provided, or defective cars where we think the owner didn’t live up to its own obligations under the law, selling things As Is before the As Is law passed,” Morrisey said. ‘A number of things that need to be corrected or otherwise the consumer holds the back.”

Now, he’s filing a civil suit against the business, alleging that Mr. V has engaged in a wide range of practices that violate the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act.

The lawsuit, filed in Kanawha Circuit Court earlier this month, includes at least 11 victims so far, seeking restitution and other penalties. Court documents indicate the state tried to hold meetings and exchanged emails with Mr. V and then his counsel trying to reach a voluntary resolution without litigation, but were unable to do so.

“This is the first I’ve heard of the lawsuit though, I’m happy about it,” said Tim Hudson.

Hudson is one of the victims named in the court filings. He didn’t even know he was included in the documents until he flagged us down to tell us about his car troubles.

“It’s just a struggle to keep this thing on the road,” he said.

He commutes from Charleston to Huntington each day and was in desperate need of a reliable ride. He tells WSAZ he had to make a quick choice about purchasing a car.

“I don’t expect to get it for free, I don’t expect it to be perfect, but I do expect for it to be safe,” Hudson said.

When he started noticing problems, he took his Nissan Altima to the be looked at and learned of a wide range of mechanical issues, despite a registration sticker not set to expire until 2022. Problems included faulty brakes, improper welding and other safety hazards.

“You’ve put my family in jeopardy, you’ve put me in a financial crunch,” he said.

He took the car to the West Virginia State Police garage in South Charleston. That’s where investigators found aluminum foil being held against the exhaust pipe with tape, officials calling it a “fire hazard.” As part of the court records, a signed document from a WVSP inspector, indicated that the vehicle would not have passed a legitimate vehicle inspection and that the conditions he observed likely existed at the time of sale.

That led authorities to tracking down the garage who had been signing off on the inspections that Mr. V had taken this and many other vehicles to, and suspending their license.

“Hopefully they get it resolved before they sell a tragedy to somebody else’s family,” Hudson said.

He too is an army veteran and tells WSAZ he understands the weight and responsibility of getting behind the wheel of a 2,000-pound missile.

“I think the most frustrating part is my family, you know,” Hudson says. “It makes me emotional.”

We stopped in at the car lot along MacCorkle Avenue, hoping to catch up with Mr. V. But just like Shane and Tim experienced, he wasn’t around.

The business is registered to Sohrab Vagheei, listed as president and Camron Vagheei as vice president.

“That’s the first time in my life I’ve ever had to make a split-second decision I had to have a car that day. I think in the future and from that experience, I’ll never do that again.”

Many of the other victims said they tried contacting the auto business to seek a solution but stopped hearing back. Others say they are still waiting for their title to be transferred to them.

These servicemen feel like they’ve been taken for a ride and are just hoping to recoup some of their wasted expenses.

“If that’s your slogan, ‘honesty meets value,’ be honest with your customers,” Hammack said.

They hope these legal proceedings will be the very last bump in the road, they have to deal with.

“What’s gonna happen when somebody actually dies from a vehicle that’s been sold that should never have been sold?” Hammack said.

State law requires that a used motor vehicle dealer transfer the title to motor vehicles to the buyer within 60 days from the date of sale.

“We need to take care of this before a hardworking West Virginian person or family gets killed by somebody who is selling a vehicle that should not be on the road,” Hammack said.

The ‘As Is Law’ requires the dealer to describe in writing any defects or malfunctions disclosed to the dealer by a previous owner or discoverable by the dealer after an inspection and must also provide the consumer with a copy of a nationally recognized vehicle history report for the vehicle.

“A lot of the cars look pretty nice,” Hammack said. “Nothing seemed amiss when I did the test drive. No lights or sounds or noises. Outside appearances can be one thing. But once you into the nitty gritty you can cost ten times what you paid for it.”

The Attorney General’s Office believes there may be more victims. To file a complaint about this business or any other, click here or call 1-800-368-8808. Here is the form to file a complaint about a motor vehicle.

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