By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
Broward businessman Zvi Sharaby paid $36,000 cash for what he was told by Goldstrom was a 1985 Porsche. After it broke down just days later, a mechanic found that it was actually a 1983 car made up of parts from several different Porsche models. While it was supposed to have had just 23,000 miles on it, the engine was burned out, the Vehicle Identification Number had illegally been removed from the car, and the auto had been reported stolen, according to the complaint. The Florida Highway Patrol seized the Porsche and investigated the case but made no arrest. Sharaby's suit has been dragging on for nearly fouryears.
Diana Downs, a long-time girlfriend of Goldstrom's, got a Porsche from the dealership as part of a settlement with Goldstrom when he ended the relationship. The car, according to the suit, had inoperable brakes, a severed cable throttle, and wheels improperly affixed to the chassis. The lawsuit alleges that Goldstrom intended for her to die in the car and formally accuses the dealership of attempted murder.
Gettings' Website includes letters from people who have similar complaints against the Toy Store. One of them is Leo Gaugasian, a millionaire builder in Southern California who paid $225,000 cash for a Ferrari, sight unseen. The Ferrari had been burned in another state and a notation on the car's title declaring that it had been wrecked was "washed" from the title in New Jersey before it wound up at the Toy Store, Gaugasian says. He claims he pumped $40,000 into the car to fix it and decided it'd be too much trouble to file a cross-country lawsuit. He says he complained to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which showed no interest in pursuing the case. "The Toy Store is on a national crime spree, and nobody is doing anything about it," Gaugasiansays.
The Fort Lauderdale Police Department has received complaints about the Toy Store as well, says spokesman Mike Reed, but has no active investigation into the dealership.
Wolofsky, a portly, bald grandfather who wears thick gold jewelry and owns a $3million estate in Boca Raton, says the lawsuits and complaints are all false. He says he didn't know Gaugasian's Ferrari had been wrecked when he sold it. Sharaby, Wolofsky states, is a liar who wrecked the car himself. Downs? She's a "woman scorned," who will stop at nothing to get back at Goldstrom. He doesn't remember Ellis'car.
At first Wolofsky claims he neither buys nor sells previously damaged cars but later admits that some damaged cars like Gaugasian's might slip through his dealership. "If a car has been in a fender-bender, does that mean it belongs in a scrap heap? Absolutely not," he says, adding that no car has ever been misrepresented by him, Goldstrom, or his sales staff. And he's never had bodywork done on his cars, because he doesn't "buy those type ofcars."
The owner of a Fort Lauderdale body shop, however, says that he did bodywork on dozens of cars for the Toy Store. Ariel Jimenez, the owner of Body Craft, says he quit working on Toy Store cars because the dealership refused to pay for quality work. Jimenez, who says he did mostly light bodywork and repainting for the Toy Store, recalls that he was once asked by a Toy Store salesman to put a piece of wood in a car's doorframe to prop up a malfunctioning window rather than actually fix it. "I threw [Wolofsky] out of here, that motherfucker," Jimenez says. "I only do quality work. They just wanted the car to look decent, and they didn't want to pay for qualitywork."
The Toy Store's defense against the lawsuits is contained in court documents and is quite simple: The customers knew they were buying cars without warranties, and each of them signed a form that states, in bold print, "AS IS -- NO WARRANTY." Included on the contract that Sharaby signed was a clear statement: "You will pay all costs for any repairs. The dealer assumes no responsibility for any repairs regardless of any oral statements made about the vehicle."
The day he signed the contract, Sharaby, then just 21 years old, wrote in his own hand: "I believe you," meaning, he says, that he took Goldstrom's word that the car was in perfect condition. "They are the biggest liars in the world," Sharaby says now. His lawyer is contending that the fact that there was no warranty on the Porsche doesn't give the Toy Store the right to sell what the suit claims to be a car riddled with illegalities.
Gettings says he's been talking with Goldstrom -- who offered him $12,500 to drop the suit and terminate the Website -- about settling the lawsuit. He's inclined to take the offer. "The energy and time that you have to exert to chase these assholes -- excuse me -- is unbelievable. Even though I know I'm right, there is no guarantee that I'llwin."
Gettings now concedes that he didn't use proper caution when buying the cars. The glitz of the Toy Store skewed his judgment, he says, and ruined his expensive dream: "It's probably the stupidest thing I've ever done. Totally out of character. I think I was just taken in by all those beautifulcars."
Contact Bob Norman at his e-mail address: Bob_Norman@newtimesbpb.com