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Representatives of Purrfect Auto Service are speaking out for the first time. The state attorney general has accused the company of ripping off Nevada drivers -- an allegation Purrfect Auto strenuously denies.
Two attorneys and a communication's consultant want to set the record straight on a few things.
First, the majority of Purrfect Auto locations are not named in the lawsuit, which is true. Second, there is no scheme to rip off customers. That will ultimately be decided in court. And finally, the alleged mastermind of that scheme is merely a consultant. However, their own clients suggest he was more.
The Nevada attorney general alleges Shafik Hirji is the mastermind behind a scheme to rip off customers at 11 Purrfect Auto locations. Hirji founded Purrfect Auto and served as the president of the corporation until a bankruptcy in the late 1990's.
According to the attorney general, Hirji directs the franchises to sell customers parts they don't need and charge for services that aren't performed. According to his attorney, Hirji serves as a consultant for the company.
"My client is not an officer, a director, an owner of this company. He's merely hired as a consultant," said Cory Hilton, Hirji's attorney.
Michael Stoberski, the attorney for the seven franchise owners accused in the attorney general's lawsuit, further clarifies Hirji's role.
"He's someone to ask questions of. He's there as a consultant, he's there to tell them and not have them reinvent the wheel. He's not directing how they run their business," said Stoberski.
To prove his point, Stoberski provided the I-Team with the sworn depositions of four of his clients.
While two of them portray Hirji's as a go to guy for advice, two others suggest he had an active role in their businesses.
Take former store owner Setrak Mardirossian. He owned two of the four locations named in the complaint. In his sworn deposition, Mardirossian says Hirji's assisted with the day to day operations of two of his stores.
Question -- who hired managers at those locations? Answer -- Shafik did.
Question -- did Shafik have firing authority? Answer -- Yes.
But remember, Mardirossian's own attorney insists Hirji had nothing to do with day-to-day operations.
"Mr. Hirji's is a representative of Francare, and he is available to assist and answer questions and that's the most he did for these franchises," said Stoberski.
Hirji's attorney made sure we understood this.
"I think I can answer one question for you as to whether he has hiring and firing authority at the franchise level -- he certainly does not," said Hilton.
In his deposition, Mardirossian goes on to explain Hirji had access to his business bank account, cut checks for parts and insurance and in November, when the story first broke, it was Hirji who told him it must be repossessed.
Mardirossian testified a woman named Judy Pham bought the Eastern location.
Question -- does she have any relationship to Shafik Hirji? Answer -- I believe they do. I think they have somewhat of a relationship.
Question -- would you categorize it as a romantic relationship? Answer -- Yes.
When asked if Judy Pham is his wife or girlfriend, Hilton answered, "That information, if I knew it, I would not share it with you. I don't know the answer."
The I-Team found a newsletter from a local homeowner's association. In 2005, the couple won a trophy for most sensational decorations at Christmas time.
Like Hirji, the attorney general has named Pham as a defendant in its lawsuit.
"Mr. Hirji put his affidavit stating he doesn't control any stores and again, more importantly, the state already took these people's depositions and they testified he doesn't control anything," said Stoberski.