Maad v. Commonwealth, 011921 VACA, 0162-20-4

Docket Nº:0162-20-4
Opinion Judge:RICHARD Y. ATLEE, JR., JUDGE
Party Name:THOMAS KHALED MAAD v. COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA
Attorney:Jason E. Ransom for appellant. Sharon M. Carr, Assistant Attorney General (Mark R. Herring, Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.
Judge Panel:Present: Judges Huff, AtLee and Athey Argued by videoconference
Case Date:January 19, 2021
Court:Court of Appeals of Virginia

THOMAS KHALED MAAD

v.

COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA

No. 0162-20-4

Court of Appeals of Virginia

January 19, 2021

FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF FREDERICK COUNTY Brian M. Madden, Judge

Jason E. Ransom for appellant.

Sharon M. Carr, Assistant Attorney General (Mark R. Herring, Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.

Present: Judges Huff, AtLee and Athey Argued by videoconference

MEMORANDUM OPINION [*]

RICHARD Y. ATLEE, JR., JUDGE

Thomas Khaled Maad was convicted, after a jury trial, of two counts of obtaining money by false pretenses in violation of Code § 18.2-178 and one count of embezzlement in violation of Code §§ 18.2-95 and 18.2-111. On appeal, Maad argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions for obtaining money by false pretenses because the evidence did not prove that he made a false representation as to a past or existing fact. He also argues that the evidence did not demonstrate that he had an intent to defraud. We disagree and affirm.

I. Background

"In accordance with familiar principles of appellate review, the facts will be stated in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth, the prevailing party at trial." Gerald v. Commonwealth, 295 Va. 469, 472 (2018) (quoting

Scott v. Commonwealth, 292 Va. 380, 381 (2016)).

So viewed, the facts show that Maad owned and operated GoldStar Motor Company ("GoldStar"), located in Frederick County, from February 2007, until it closed in early 2019. In 2016, Maad's business started experiencing financial difficulties. Over the next two years, Maad continued to operate, contributing $380, 000 from his retirement accounts and life insurance policies. He also asked Pinnacle Financial Group ("Pinnacle") to further extend his line of credit.

Tim Clark, a special agent with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles ("DMV"), met with Maad in February 2018, to investigate a complaint. During their meeting, Maad admitted to Clark that he had approximately seventy customers who did not have titles to the vehicles they had purchased. Clark advised Maad about the applicable laws regarding selling and titling vehicles. Clark testified at trial that a car dealer has thirty days to obtain a title for a sold vehicle and may request an additional sixty days, in thirty-day increments, if there are problems in obtaining a title from a lien holder. If there is a delay in obtaining the title, the DMV creates a "title held record" until the title is received, and the buyer of the vehicle cannot retitle the vehicle until the issue is resolved.

On June 28, 2018, Ethan Caldwell traded in his 2012 Ford F-150 pickup truck to GoldStar and purchased a 2011 Honda Odyssey for $17, 527.28, including sales tax and licensing fees. Caldwell made a down payment and financed the remaining $16, 500. Caldwell still owed T.D. Auto Financing $21, 000 for the pickup, and, as part of the deal, Maad promised to pay off the loan on the pickup and transfer title of the Odyssey to Caldwell. Caldwell testified that he expected GoldStar to pay the sales tax and registration fees.

Within a couple of months, Caldwell received notices from T.D. Auto Financing about past due payments owed on the pickup. Caldwell contacted Maad and asked him about paying off the loan. Maad said that he was going to pay it off, but he only made one payment of $2, 000. Caldwell continued to call Maad, who did not answer the calls and instead responded by text message. As of October 1, 2019, Maad still had not paid off the loan, and the amount owed on the loan was $20, 017.20. Additionally, Maad never provided Caldwell with title to the Odyssey. Though Maad had acquired the Odyssey from another car dealer, he never got the title from the dealer. The DMV record listed the Odyssey under "title held" status, and, as of three days before Maad's trial, Caldwell still had not received the title for it.

Zachary Shiley visited GoldStar on July 14, 2018. He traded in his 2011 Jeep Liberty and purchased a 2012 Ford F-150, the same one Caldwell had just traded in. As part of the trade-in of the Jeep, Maad promised to pay off the remaining $6, 200 that Shiley owed on the Jeep, but he did not do so. Shiley testified that the "repossession man" came to his house twice to repossess the Jeep for nonpayment. When Shiley contacted GoldStar about these issues, he never received a "reliable response" and got the "run-around" from GoldStar employees. Despite Maad's promise that he could transfer clear title for the pickup, he did not initiate the process to transfer title to Shiley. According to the DMV record, the pickup was still registered to Caldwell and had a lien on the title. Moreover, as of two days before the trial, Maad still had not paid the sales tax and licensing fees as required by the Buyer's Order.

On October 6, 2018, Madison Pugh purchased a 2009 Jeep Wrangler1 from GoldStar for $18, 625, which included $1, 098.48 in sales tax and licensing fees. She traded in her 2016 Dodge Dart, on which she still owed $8, 900, with the understanding that Maad would pay off the remainder of that loan. When Pugh discovered that the loan had not been paid, she contacted GoldStar and one of Maad's employees told her that they were working on it. The next week, the employee told Pugh that the check had been sent, but as of the date of trial, the loan was still unpaid, and the Dodge Dart had been repossessed from Maad's lot. Pugh testified that she was told her license plates would be transferred from the Dodge to the Jeep, and she paid fees to cover those expenses. Because Maad did not submit the taxes and fees to the DMV, Pugh had to repay those fees a second time. In fact, Maad did not even start the process to transfer title to the Jeep to Pugh.

Ultimately Maad closed his business. Shortly thereafter, Maad was arrested, and his trial commenced on November 14, 2019. Maad testified on his own behalf. He explained that he never intended to "rip off" Caldwell, Shiley, or Pugh. He testified that his business catered to individuals who could only make low down payments on the vehicle they sought to purchase or those with low credit scores, and GoldStar would often finance vehicle loans when financial institutions refused. This resulted in GoldStar owing more and more money. Maad knew that GoldStar was having "real problems" since 2016, but he explained that he expected Pinnacle to increase his line of credit as it had at other times when he had cash flow issues. He admitted that he did not use the money from selling vehicles to Caldwell, Shiley, or Pugh to pay off the loans on the vehicles they traded in because he used the money for his "most pressing" obligations. He also admitted that when he sold the F-150 pickup to Shiley, he knew that he would not be able to give clear title to the pickup. Maad testified that he relied on DMV Investigator Clark's representations that "when he close[d] down, [the DMV] would take...

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