06/22/2012 11:12 EDT | Updated 08/22/2012 05:12 EDT

Windsor, Ont., home to 'prolific illegal used car salesman'

Ontario's auto sales watchdog has dubbed a Windsor man one of the province's "most prolific illegal used car salesmen."

Bahjat (Bruno) Touma has pleaded guilty to one count of acting as a dealer and one count of acting as a salesperson without registration. He has been fined more than $60,000 under Ontario's Motor Vehicle Dealers Act.

Terry O'Keefe of OMVIC called the fines "substantial."

Touma has been charged more the 100 times before. The latest charges stem from eight cars he sold in 2011.

O'Keefe said an investigator found Touma posing as a private seller, posting several used car ads online. The practice of illegally selling cars is known as "curb siding."

Selling new or used vehicles in Ontario is a regulated industry. If people are going to sell cars for profit, they must be registered. Touma wasn't. He was selling cars from his home, O'Keefe said.

"The way that consumer protection law in Ontario is written, the rights and protection you have as a car buyer depend entirely upon who you buy from," O'Keefe said.

Buyers are protected by Ontario's Motor Vehicle Dealers Act and the Consumer Protection Act if they buy from a dealer. But they have no protection if they buy from a private seller, O'Keefe said.

"Most curb siders pose as private sellers," O'Keefe said."You’ll think they are a private seller. But very often the vehicles are misrepresented."

O'Keefe said cars sold illegally might be sold with rolled back odometers or liens against them. They may also be salvaged from the scrap heap and unsafe, he said.

Some curb siders also pose as small used car dealerships or mechanics who sell cars on the side.

O'Keefe said the best way for buyers to protect themselves is to ask questions. In particular, ask for the ownership and driver's license from the curb sider.

"If they’re not the same, alarm bells should go off,” he said.