SARATOGA SPRINGS -- The state Department of Motor Vehicles has opened an investigation of the Mavis Discount Tire store in the wake of revelations tied to the limousine crash last year in Schoharie that claimed 20 lives.
Investigators have known for months that the South Broadway store issued a DMV inspection sticker to the vehicle in May 2018 even though it wasn't authorized to inspect high-capacity stretch limousines. But last month, a former Mavis manager claimed that the shop didn't do planned brake work on the limo -- a potentially explosive development in the criminal case against limo company operator Nauman Hussain.
"The DMV is actively investigating the alleged misconduct related to Mavis’ work as an inspection station and vehicle repair shop to ensure the protection and safety of consumers," DMV spokeswoman Lisa Koumjian said in a brief statement. "Because we are pursuing administrative action, it would not be appropriate to comment further."
Investigators believe "catastrophic brake failure" led to the crash at state routes 30 and 30A on Oct. 6, 2018, that killed the driver, 17 passengers on a birthday outing, and two pedestrians in the parking lot of the Apple Barrel Country Store.
Hussain, 29, of Wilton, faces 20 counts each of second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, with a trial scheduled for Scoharie County Court in March. He was the day-to-day operator of Prestige Limousine, which is owned by his father, Shahed Hussain, who has remained out of the country since before the crash.
Nauman Hussain, who is free on bail, is accused of keeping the stretched 2001 Ford Excursion on the road despite failing a state Department of Transportation inspection for reasons including brake problems. Large-capacity commercial vehicles like stretched limousines are supposed to be inspected by DOT, and not at DMV-licensed inspection stations. Despite failing the DOT inspection, Hussain brought the limo to Mavis for brake repairs and then had them inspect it. The former Mavis manager said that break work was never done, despite the company billing Hussain for the work.
As part of pre-trial proceedings, Schoharie County District Attorney Susan Mallery on Oct. 7 disclosed to defense attorneys that the fired Mavis manager, Virgil Parks, in September told investigators that Mavis had ordered a new master brake cylinder for the limousine in May 2018, but didn't install it.
Defense attorney Joseph Tacopina almost immediately wrote to the judge, contending that Hussain wasn't criminally responsible, and Mavis' failure to do brake work was the real reason the limousine crashed, so the charges should be dismissed.
“The defense respectfully maintains that the Indictment must be dismissed in its entirety,” the letter states near its conclusion.
County Court Judge George R. Bartlett has yet to rule on the motion.
Mavis, in a statement last week, called Parks' account "inaccurate or misleading."
“Mavis is committed to providing high quality, safe, affordable services to our customers. Our service and billing policies are honest, fair and sound and we vehemently disagree with any allegations to the contrary. Mr. Hussain and his criminal defense lawyers are attempting to falsely attack Mavis in a desperate diversion tactic to shift responsibility away from Mr. Hussain, where it solely belongs," the statement continued.
Based on the previously known out-of-category inspections, the estates of several crash victims have already filed lawsuits that named Mavis, along with Hussain, as a potentially responsible party. Mavis has denied having any liability for the crash.