A Georgetown used-car dealer who specialized in buying and selling expensive imports was being sought yesterday by D.C. police, who said he recently sold at least two cars without the permission of owners.
The dealer, Steve Moin, described only as an Iranian national, operated Georgetown Quality Imports at Wisconsin Avenue and Q Street NW. Police said they charge Moin with felony larceny in one case and that he is under investigation in several others, in which owners left cars with the dealer for minor repairs, but returned to find their vehicles had been sold.
Hashem Ghaidi, a co-owner of the Luieli hair salon across the street from the car lot, said his 1978 Porsche 924, valued at about $9,000, was sold in late May for $8,800 after he took the car to Moin for new tires and a car wax. "I think it was sold with the new tires in the back seat," Ghaidi said. w
Saeed Mannanyha, who also works at Luieli, said his 1977 MGB sports car was sold without his permission in late May when he took it to the dealer to get a broken window handle repaired and to have the car cleaned. Mannanyha said he went to Dallas on business and returned to find the car sold.
Both men said Moin promised to reimburse them but gave no reason why the cars had been sold. Mannanyha said Moin gave him a $3,700 check for the car, but the check bounced when he tried to cash it.
Mannanyha said he previously had left his car at Moin's shop without problems. "I have lived in Georgetown seven years. Sometimes they washed the car or polished it. Never did such a thing happen," Mannanyha said. "He seemed like an okay guy. There was nothing weir about him."
Police said Moin sold the cars to unsuspecting buyers who were told they would get their titles within 30 days. Police said two buyers have been located and are cooperating with them in the investigation. D.C. police Capt. Clarence Dickerson said one of the buyers complained to police after she failed repeatedly to get her title from Moin.
Ghaidi said he confronted Moin after learning that his car had been sold from the tiny Wisconsin Avenue lot, which holds fewer than 15 cars. "He asked me for the title," Ghaidi said. "I told him, 'You've go to be kidding.'" Ghaidi said Moin thought he should be happy that his car was sold at such a high price. "I didn't want to sell it," Ghaidi said. "I want my car back. If I could go take it myself, I would."
D.C. police Det. Richard Ragsdale of the Consumer Fraud Unit was called into the case after Ghaidi and Mannanyha complained to the Automobile Owners Action Council (AOAC), a 7-year-old, nonprofit organization that mediates disputes between dealers and buyers.
Archie Richardson, head of the D.C.-based AOAC, said "four or five open complaints" are pending against the dealer involving unauthorized selling of cars, including a Mercedes and a Cadillac. "You're talking aobut $20,000 to $30,000," Richardson said.
Richardson said an employe of the dealer also was having trouble getting title to a car that he had bought from Moin.
Fred Goldberg, general counsel of the D.C. Office of Consumer Protecttion, said his agency also is investigating the dealer's business activities.
Moin, who gave one of his customers a phone number and an address in Arlington, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Moin closed his business about two weeks ago after complaints from the owners of the cars that had been sold. A neighboring service station operator said a wrecker came and hauled away several cars from the lot. The space, in the heart of the congested Georgetown shopping district, had been taken over by commuters and shoppers happy to find new places to park.