Sam the Man’s car ‘scam’: Dozens of customers allege car detailer took their vehicles and then held them to ransom

Alleged victims of a ‘dodgy’ car detailer claim their vehicles have been held to ransom for huge extra payments for work that never took place.

Sam the Man Car Care owner Sam Baravelli, 34, who relied on updating some customers’ dream cars, has instead been accused of using their vehicles as a way to extort them of more money.

Dozens of customers claim Mr Baravelli kept their cars for weeks longer than expected and charged exorbitant amounts – with some claiming they received the car back in a worse condition.

Mr Baravelli was arrested by police last Tuesday after Consumer Affairs Victoria warned the public not to take their business to Sam the Man in January.

Police towed a dozen allegedly stolen vehicles from Baravelli’s car shop in Footscray, Melbourne’s west, before charging him with 33 counts of car theft and obtaining property by deception.

An allegedly dodgy car detailer, Sam Baravelli (pictured arrested), has been accused of holding onto customers’ cars to extort them from extra payments

One of those allegedly struck by Bavarelli was 19-year-old apprentice mechanic Josh Williams, who said his Nissan Skyline R34 was vandalized by the car detailer.

What was supposed to be a four-week job quickly turned into a nearly two-month project that ended up costing Mr. Williams all his savings: $17,194.50.

After spending all his money and still not getting his car back, Mr Williams took matters into his own hands and found the car at the company in a terrible condition.

“All the paint protection has been taken off, there are quite a few more scratches than there were originally,” he told A Current Affair.

‘My interior is absolutely destroyed. There are stains everywhere.

“(Baravelli) said there was more to be done, I told him I wouldn’t pay for it… If I stopped paying he wouldn’t give me my car back.

“In a sense, I was being held at ransom and my car was the bait.”

Consumer Affairs Victoria director Nicole Rich warned the public to take their business to Sam the Man after receiving more than 70 complaints from members of the public.

“Not only were there breaches of consumer law, but there was potentially outright theft of vehicles taking place,” she said.

“We were very concerned about Sam the Man Car Care based on the messages we were receiving from Victorian consumers about what was happening, and I concluded we needed to urgently alert the public.”

The watchdog’s warning alleged that Mr Barravelli had ‘made false or misleading statements about the price of his services (and) increasing the original price’.

‘(Sam the Man is alleged to have failed to perform services within the agreed time or within a reasonable period and to have returned the consumers’ vehicles with further damage while the vehicle remained in Sam the Man’s possession.’

The alert also claimed that on three occasions, cars left with Sam the Man were not returned to their owners.

Apprentice mechanic Josh Williams (pictured with his Nissan Skyline R34), claims Baravelli destroyed his car despite paying him more than $17,000

Apprentice mechanic Josh Williams (pictured with his Nissan Skyline R34), claims Baravelli destroyed his car despite paying him more than $17,000

Victoria Police allege the scam was much broader and involved him ‘holding customers’ vehicles for an unreasonable period of time and refusing to return them until they paid a significantly higher fee than initially agreed’.

“(Baravelli allegedly) requested payment for services he did not perform, and also drove customers’ cars for his personal use.”

Police will also allege he continued taking customers’ cars and issuing quotes after he was kicked out of the store.

However, Mr Baravelli said there was more to it and that customers simply did not understand how he worked.

“I tried to explain it the best I could because I feel like I owe the community something,” Baravelli told the program as he was being arrested.

‘I never intended to take someone’s car to do anything.

“All the cars there have had work done on them… work has been done on the road.”

He has since been released on bail and will appear in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on June 20.

A South Melbourne woman, 45, is also expected to be charged with theft of a motor vehicle and obtaining property by deception.

Police have urged anyone with information about the alleged scam to come forward as the investigation is ongoing.