More than three years after losing their vehicles to what Calgary police say was a consignment-sale scam, victims are finally being offered compensation from Alberta's automotive regulator — but it's only a fraction of what they believe they're owed.
The Alberta Motor Vehicles Industry Council (AMVIC) has capped total payouts related to Treadz Auto at $350,000, despite more than $1 million in total claims against the now-defunct dealership.
The money will be paid out on a pro-rated basis, meaning victims will likely get only a third — at most — of the value of their approved claims.
"It's not fair," said Lisa Bell, who is among the dozens of people to file claims with AMVIC.
She said she lost her 2008 Toyota Sequoia after handing over the vehicle to Treadz to be sold on consignment and never seeing it again.
"The day they closed down, I found out my vehicle was gone," she said.
Jesse Hare said he tried to sell his 2009 Dodge Ram through Treadz in the summer of 2014 but grew worried after several months passed with "very little communication" from the dealership.
When he called to tell them he wanted the truck back, he said he was told it had just been sold and he would "receive a cheque in the mail shortly after."
He said he showed up at the used car dealership three days later, in person, to find the place abandoned.
"The lot was completely emptied and all the vehicles were gone and the gates were shut," Hare said.
The company's owner was later charged with more than 100 counts of fraud and theft.
Police said dozens of consignment vehicles were sold to unsuspecting buyers while Treadz simply kept the money.
In some cases, the company allegedly failed to pay off vehicle liens, leaving the original owners on the hook for the loans despite no longer having the vehicles.
The case is due back in court in January.
Class-action lawsuit and provincial review
Victims later launched a $5-million, class-action lawsuit against both Treadz and AMVIC.
The incident also led to a provincial review of AMVIC and the dismissal of its CEO, John Bachinski, in 2016.
The new NDP government revamped the regulator last year. Earlier this month, it added four more members to its governing board.
Interim AMVIC CEO Doug Lagore said the cap on payouts was put in place in 2012 and the regulator is looking at changing the policy but it can't do it retroactively.
"We have other claims that we're currently in the process of dealing with and you have to deal with them within the same parameters as you're dealing with the Treadz file," he said.
Victims met this week in Calgary with lawyers from the same law firm handling the class action to discuss their options regarding the pro-rated payout offers.
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