CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Department of Justice and the North Carolina Attorney General filed a lawsuit Monday against the man who owns Auto Fare and Southeastern Auto Corp., both “buy here, pay here” car dealerships in west Charlotte on Wilkinson Boulevard.
The suit claims the owner, Zuhdi Saadeh, targets African American customers because “he perceives them to be of inferior intellect and to have few options for credit.” It alleges he uses racial slurs about his black customers. It alleges Saadeh uses inflated pricing conditions with black customers. It alleges he wrongfully repossessed cars and in some instances, installed secret GPS devices on customer’s vehicles.
We approached Saadeh at one of his dealerships as he was climbing into his black Mercedes SUV. He closed the door and drove off, refusing to answer any of our questions. We approached several other men at the dealership; they all declined to speak.
A former customer did speak to us on the phone. She says, “He’s (Saadeh) very nasty.” The woman – who doesn’t want to reveal her name – says she purchased a used Jeep from Saadeh in 2012. She says he repossessed her car after she missed one payment and treated her disrespectfully. Upon hearing about the lawsuit he faces, she says, “It’s definitely not a surprise.”
Saadeh’s attorney tells WCCB that he “unequivocally denies the allegations made by the Department of Justice. Mr. Saadeh has not used racial slurs or derogatory comments, nor has he discriminated against any of his customers during his more than 15 years in the Charlotte community. More importantly, Mr. Saadeh has not targeted his African American customers for unfair and predatory lending practices as alleged by the Department of Justice.”
One of the two dealerships has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. If a judge rules against Saadeh, he could be fined or forced to pay customers. His attorney thinks a disgruntled former employee is behind the lawsuit.