An Alamance County activist has filed a lawsuit against a car dealer in Burlington for allegedly repossessing his Mercedes even though he says he hadn’t missed a payment.
The lawsuit was filed earlier this month in Alamance County civil superior court by Michael Graves, a civil rights advocate who’s worked with Alamance County law enforcement officials on a number of issues and served many years ago as the president of the Alamance County chapter of the NAACP. The court file lists Graves’ address as being in the care of his attorney, Julian Doby, whose office is located at 110 West Elm Street in downtown Graham.
In his suit, Graves alleges that, in March of this year, he bought a 2016 Mercedes S550 for $50,000, for which he paid $15,000 as a down payment and financed the remaining $35,000 in $500 monthly installment payments. Shortly afterwards, Graves discovered the car had problems and returned to the dealership where he bought the Mercedes, Byblos Motorsports at 827 South Church Street in Burlington, to have the vehicle repaired.
After discovering problems with the car, he returned to the car dealer to have the vehicle repaired and was informed by an employee, identified in the lawsuit as Christelle Jeaara, that “because he was not there at 8:30 a.m. that it would be another month” before the car dealer’s mechanics would be able to get around to repairing the Mercedes.
Graves told the employee he would have someone else make the repairs and would send Byblos Motorsports (“Byblos”) the bill, at which point he was allegedly instructed to leave the premises and not come back, according to his suit. Graves ultimately decided to make the repairs himself but continued to send his monthly car payments to Byblos by certified mail through his attorney, the complaint states.
Graves, through his attorney, mailed his payment for May 2023 to Byblos, which he claims was returned by the dealership, according to his suit. He made his next payment by a cashier’s check, which Byblos cashed.
Nonetheless, Byblos had a towing company repossess the Mercedes on June 27 – which Graves claims happened at the same time he was “at a meeting with the Alamance County sheriff,” Terry Johnson. (The lawsuit does not specify where the vehicle was parked when it was repossessed.)
“No notice of default or late payment was ever sent…nor were there any missed payments on the automobile,” Graves asserts in his suit.
According to his lawsuit, Graves had the sheriff contact the car dealership, which said it had made a mistake and that Graves could come with law enforcement to retrieve the vehicle.
The Alamance News has learned that the Mercedes was parked in the parking lot at the Alamance County sheriff’s office when it was repossessed.
It was a bait-and-switch, says Graves, who alleges in his suit that, when he arrived at the dealership with the sheriff, he was told that Burlington police officers would have to be present in order for him to retrieve the Mercedes.
But when Burlington police officers arrived at the car lot, Jeaara, the Byblos employee, refused to release the vehicle and demanded that Graves turn over the keys, even though the dealership had cashed his cashier’s check for the monthly payment, the complaint states.
Graves is seeking recovery of the vehicle, as well as $51,500 in damages, plus his attorney’s fees, under multiple alleged causes of action, including: breach of contract; conversion; and unfair and deceptive trade practices.
The suit asserts that Byblos violated a state law that prohibits unfair and deceptive trade practices by repossessing an automobile when the car dealership had no legal right to do so in the absence of a default or any late payments.
“[Byblos] misrepresented their intentions by stating that [the] plaintiff could retrieve the automobile with law enforcement,” and then refused to turn it over.
The defendant had not filed a response to the lawsuit by press time Wednesday. The court file lists the registered agent for the car dealership as Jeaara Ibarhim of 827 South Church Street, Burlington.