The owner of what is said to be California’s fifth-largest RV dealership claims a raid by DMV agents could shut him down by the end of this week, KXTV-TV, Sacramento, reported.
Naiel Ammari, owner of Best RV Center in Turlock, sought an emergency court order Wednesday (July 21) forcing the DMV to return a number of files seized as agents executed a search warrant July 13.
In a sworn declaration Ammari claimed “there is a substantial risk of irreparable harm if DMV does not return this property immediately. The seizure of this property has already crippled the business operations of Best RV Center.”
Ammari’s attorney, Peter Rausch, complained in a letter that five DMV agents accompanied by about 10 Stanislaus County sheriff’s deputies conducted a “SWAT-style” raid and held Ammari’s employees “prisoner” for three hours. Rausch said Ammari was not given a chance to respond to allegations that led to the raid and that the action “virtually shut down Naiel Ammari’s business.”
In his declaration, Ammari said his lenders had frozen his inventory credit lines as a result of the raid and the “mischaracterization of my business practices in the press.” Ammari said he would be forced to lay off all 25 of his employees as soon as this Friday.
Rausch claims Ammari, a Jordanian immigrant, has been the target of anti-Muslim bias as well as the focus of a negative whisper campaign by his competitors.
Following the raid, DMV investigations Commander Ray Brown said the agency was seeking criminal charges against Ammari because of a $750 inspection fee that was charged to RV buyers. Brown said Best RV led buyers to believe the “Calilfornia Pre-Delivery Inspection Fee” was required by the state.
Rausch said a similar inspection fee is charged by virtually all RV dealers in California and that Ammari never claimed it was state-mandated. “We have no problem taking the ‘California’ reference out of the paperwork to avoid confusion,” Rausch said. Best RV would continue doing the inspections but would at least temporarily waive the fee, he said.
Rausch said the judge in Modesto took no formal action during Wednesday’s hearing, instead urging the parties to negotiate an equitable solution on their own. Rausch said DMV agreed to return at least a dozen so-called “deal-ready document packages” seized during the raid and would allow other documents to be scanned and computer disks copied while the criminal investigation continues.
Rausch considered the agreement a breakthrough and said Best RV would now approach its lenders in an attempt to get the credit lines restored.
Tom Reece of Amador County, Calif., remembered thinking it was odd to be paying a state inspection fee when he bought a recreational vehicle last March. However, he paid it anyway.
“I guess at the time, my feeling was (that it was) something California came up with. You’ve got tire recycling fees. If you buy a TV, there are recycling fees on TV’s. Nothing surprises me anymore about California,” Reece told KXTV, Sacramento.
So Reece was more than a little interested when he read a KXTV story Tuesday (July 13) that the Turlock dealer that sold him that RV was in trouble with the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Best RV Center was raided Tuesday by state investigators, who seized boxes of records and computers. The dealer is accused of overcharging customers $750 via a state inspection fee that doesn’t exist.
The owner of the dealership declined to comment on the charges Tuesday and again Wednesday when contacted by the TV station.
Though Reece has paperwork that shows he paid that state inspection fee, he didn’t pay $750. He actually paid $337 after haggling with the owner over the price of the RV.
“When we argued about the price, that’s where he took off the fee,” said Reece.
DMV officials said the investigation so far has turned up between 10 and 15 victims.
A Turlock, Calif., RV shop is under investigation by the Department of Motor Vehicles on the suspicion they were charging customers a bogus inspection fee.
Investigators with the Stockton DMV branch served out a search warrant at the Best RV Center on Taylor Road Tuesday morning (July 13). DMV spokesman Mike Marando said the search warrants were part of an ongoing investigation into allegations that the dealership had been collecting fraudulent fees from their customers, The Turlock Journal reported. Marando said several complaints were lodged against the dealership by customers who were charged $750 under the guise of a California inspection fee.
“No such fee exists,” Marando said.
Investigators seized several documents at the dealership that are related to the investigation.
The dealership declined to comment on the investigation.
Best RV Center is a full service RV dealership selling new and used recreational vehicles, as well as service, parts and rentals.
Marando advised consumers to closely review their contracts when purchasing any kind of vehicle, especially when it comes to accessories or fees.
“In our findings, 99.99% of dealerships play by the rules, but there are always a few bad players in the bunch,” he said.
Anyone believing they may have been charged a fraudulent fee is asked to contact the Stockton investigations office at (209) 473-6964. Callers should be prepared to provide a copy of their contract and all sales receipts.
Central California retailer Best RV Center has relocated from its longtime location in Manteca with the recent opening of a new full-service facility situated on 10.2 acres in Turlock. “Basically, we needed more room,” said Best RV owner Naiel Ammari. “We were at the Manteca location for 12 years, and we did very well. But it was on two acres with just one service bay and no parts store.” The new site features a 20,000-square-foot indoor showroom complemented by a 5,000-square-foot parts department and a six- bay, 6,000- square-foot area dedicated to RV service. On its expanded outdoor lot, the dealership also offers a full-service RV wash that can accommodate large motorhomes along with facilities for filling propane and a fully equipped dump station. “As everyone knows, the market has been down,” Ammari said. “We’re still doing fine with sales, but we are concentrating more on our service, parts and aftermarket business.”