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Foss: Bombshell claim in Schoharie limo case could be game-changer

Foss: Bombshell claim in Schoharie limo case could be game-changer

Foss: Bombshell claim in Schoharie limo case could be game-changer
Mavis Discount Center, 45 South Broadway, Saratoga Springs.
Photographer: MARC SCHULTZ

Before I found a trustworthy mechanic to service my car, I feared being ripped off whenever I took my vehicle in for repairs.

In particular, I worried that the places that worked on my car would take advantage of me by doing work that didn't need to be done, padding my bill with unnecessary add-ons. 

It never occurred to me that they might do the opposite — bill me for work that, although needed, was never performed. 

Maybe I'm naïve, but allegations that a Mavis Discount Tire in Saratoga Springs may have faked brake repairs to the stretch limousine involved in the deadly Schoharie County crash that killed 20 came as a true shock, a chilling reminder that negligence and callousness are often a recipe for disaster. 

If true, the allegations have the potential to be a game-changer for Nauman Husssain, the Wilton limousine operator accused of knowingly putting a vehicle with bad brakes on the road. 

Hussain has been hit with 20 counts each of criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter but, in light of last week's Mavis Tire disclosures, his defense team is once again asking that the charges be dismissed. 

Their reasoning, as attorney Joseph Tacopina put it: "Mavis' fraudulent conduct — not anything undertaken by (Hussain) — was the true legal cause of the accident." 

I'm not ready to join Hussain's lawyers in calling for the charges against him to be dismissed. 

But I can't help but wonder whether the mechanic who allegedly faked the limousine's brake work ought to face criminal charges, too. 

We know that catastrophic brake failure caused the crash — shouldn't the person who falsely claimed the vehicle's brakes had been fixed also be held accountable for the tragedy that occurred last October? 

Of course, it's a difficult question to answer with any certainty until we know more about what happened at the Mavis shop. 

Which is why we need the allegations contained in Schoharie County District Attorney Susan Mallery's letter to defense attorney Lee Kindlon to be thoroughly investigated. 

The Mavis Tire allegations are troubling and significant, and at the very least suggest that Hussain was able to keep his vehicle on the road because those charged with ensuring that his limo was safe to transport passengers didn't do enough to stop him. 

In her letter, Mallery writes that former Mavis Tire manager Virgil Parks claimed in an interview that a master brake cylinder was ordered but not installed at the stretch limo's May 2018 inspection, and that the part was later returned to an Advance Auto Parts store. 

That's not the only disturbing allegation Parks made, according to Mallery's letter.  

He also said that he gave the limousine a Department of Motor Vehicles inspection sticker, even though Mavis wasn't authorized to inspect high-capacity commercial vehicles. 

And he said that it was common practice at Mavis to substitute certain services on invoices for the ones actually performed, "in order for the store to meet sales quotas established by the corporate office." 

Are these stories true? 

We need to know. 

We also need to know whether other customers are at risk because their vehicles received sham repair jobs, how widespread the conduct described by Parks really was and whether other high-capacity commercial vehicles were inspected at the Mavis on Broadway in violation of state law. 

After all we've heard, we can't assume that Hussain's limo was the only vehicle that received such treatment. 

Mavis has denied wrongdoing, noted that the stretch limo traveled more than 1,000 miles after it was serviced, and observed that Hussain defied orders to take the vehicle out of service. 

That might all be true, but it doesn't mean that Mavis' conduct is above scrutiny, or that the company doesn't owe a concerned public more answers about its dealings with Hussain and the billing practices described by Parks. 

The allegations in Mallery's letter are ugly, and they're not going to go away. 

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