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News   October 2, 2017   by Allan Janssen

Technician has ‘fallen on evil times,’ lawyer says

Joe Ramono faces the possibility of jail time for certifying a defective 1995 Dodge Ram 2500 pickup that was involved in a deadly crash about a month later.


Joe Ramono leaves Ontario Superior Court in Peterborough, Ont. on Friday. He is awaiting sentencing for his latest conviction of selling fraudulent safety certificates.

The lawyer for the Ontario technician who issued a fake safety for a defective Dodge pickup involved in a deadly crash says his client is “virtually unhirable” in the automotive aftermarket.

Lawyer Glenn Orr painted a bleak picture of his client, Joe Ramono, who was found guilty in June of issuing a forged document, and who is now awaiting sentencing.

“Mr. Ramono has suffered already as a result of this matter,” he told Ontario Superior Court Justice Stephen Bale. “He has suffered in the past, during the past five years. He is suffering in the present, and it is my submission that he is going to suffer in the future.”

Orr made a case for leniency, saying Ramono’s life has been “shattered” by the events following the 2012 crash that took the life of 27-year-old Abigail MacNaughton. He faces personal and financial challenges, and is now having extreme difficulty finding work due to his numerous encounters with the criminal court system and the Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation (MTO) over fake safeties.

Orr several times suggested safety certificates are a large part of what most repair shops do and there isn’t much call for a technician like Ramono who has been barred from doing safety inspections.

“How far does a mechanic get when a great deal of what an automotive repair shop does is precluded from him to do?” he said.

“A snowball would have a better chance in that bad place than Mr. Ramono will ever have of getting a licence to issue safety certificates again. A reasonable person looking at the situation would probably conclude that his likelihood of getting a licence in the future is … somewhat remote.”

He pleaded with the judge not to send Ramono to jail.

“A conditional discharge would be open to Your Honor,” Orr said, “but I’m not asking for that. In my submission, it would be open to Your Honor to give him a suspended sentence with probation and very strict terms.”

But assistant crown attorney Lisa Wannamaker said she did not know what kind of probation terms would be strict enough, given the importance of deterring Ramono and others from blithely certifying faulty vehicles as safe.

“It is especially important – and this is an opportunity – to send a message to other mechanics, people who I would suggest are in a position of trust in our society – entrusted with a significant responsibility to sign off on the vehicles on the road that they are safe and roadworthy,” she said.

She went over Ramono’s record, including:

* A guilty plea in 2007 of selling pre-signed safety certificates to a used-car dealership;

* A guilty plea in 2008 to charges of selling fraudulent safeties;

* A guilty plea in 2016 of several cases of selling fraudulent safeties and poor record-keeping in 2012; and

* Several letters of warning from MTO for infractions related to issuing safety certificates.

“This is a pattern for Mr. Ramono. This is how he conducts business. And to date, the fines and penalties are simply the cost of doing business,” she said. “The comments of Justice Kerr in 2007 were eerily accurate when he said, ‘Can you imagine the carnage that could have resulted from this. He might have been certifying cars to be in good mechanical condition when they were death traps.’”

Wannamaker is asking for six to nine months in jail and three years of probation during which time he must not act as a mechanic or any other post in the auto trade, nor seek a license to run an auto business. She is also asking that Ramono be forced to complete a large number of hours of community service.

Ramono’s lawyer said he has shown in the past five years that he can restrain himself from writing fake safeties, and Ramono is trying to rebuild his automotive career with a mobile repair service. But he acknowledged it has been more than challenging.

“I think it is a fair assessment – and it may come as comfort to the people on the other side – that he has fallen on evil times, on bad times,” he said. “It is very easy in this world to take the position that people are the authors of their own misfortune, and that’s often the case. But sometimes, even if they are the authors of their own misfortune, the misfortune itself is quite a cross to bear.”

Orr said if Justice Bale feels compelled to issue a jail term, he requested no more than 90 days, and that to be served on weekends.

Justice Bale is now considering the sentencing presentations and is expected to hand down his sentence on Oct. 26.

 


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22 Comments » for Technician has ‘fallen on evil times,’ lawyer says
  1. Brett says:

    This guy deserves to be behind bars. No questions asked.

  2. Joel P says:

    Somebody needs to ask what the responsibility of the government is in this case. 2007 and 2008 guilty pleas of fraudulent safeties and pre signed safeties? How was this guy still licensed and allowed to operated? That should’ve been an immediate removal of any and all licence(s) in the automotive world. How can someone so grossly ignore safety guidelines when they are licensed and entrusted to make sure vehicles are safe, be found guilty of it, 2 years in a row, and still be allowed to operate? That in itself is a crime for being allowed to happen and it ended up costing a young woman her life. This guy deserves years in jail and so do the people who have let him operate his business in lieu of his guilty verdicts and know shady business practices,

  3. MATTHEW MORRONE says:

    He should be in jail. Period. He is giving the rest of us good Safety techs a really bad name.

  4. Brian Browning says:

    I believe that Joe Ramono has been the creator of his own demise. If they let him off with a slap on the wrist it makes the whole safety and inspection program a joke with no teeth.

  5. Bob Ward says:

    The penalties for issuing fraudulent safeties need to be far more severe for both the issuing shop and the technician. How can you send a message out when the possibility of a lesser sentence looms. Stepping up the procedure pace for investigation in very important. In this case where the technician has done this multiple times no leniency should be considered. He should also lose his trade certification to prevent any future workmanship issues. He has brought all this on himself. Do you think his lawyer would let him work on his car?

    • scott says:

      I agree that the penalties should be more severe for shops and techs but what about the customer? We’re all assuming that the customer didn’t know about the fraudulent safetys. It has been my experience over the years that often the customer comes in and asks for a “fake saftey” because they know the vehicle needs more work than/more cost than they can aford or are willing to pay. Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that doing false/fraudlent inspections is justifiable or that techs/shops shouldn’t be held accountable just that there is always another side to the story.

      • I will bet there are 10 fraudulent safeties a month that get written in my neck of the woods . I inspect cars that are so far off the mark to pass and then like someone showed them the way they get taken out of my shop and miraculously are on the road . Makes me look bad but the consumer and the shop who helps them both conspire to do wrong .

  6. Here is where the entire system has failed .
    1) a person can get a trip permit or multiple ones to shop around and get quotes on the unsafe vehicle without restriction of use and who can ride in it . The MTO unleashes these onto the road and I’ve seen them heading to Niagara Falls for the weekend with no brakes .
    2) There are worse vehicles on the road than even the one in question in this case . The annual safety inspection would clean all that up if done dilligently .
    3) There are many do it yourselfers out there . We see calipers mounted on left that are rights and wrong or missed parts installed or not installed . This list could go on and on from what many readers here likely have seen . If I want to compare industries then see how the government watches over prescription drugs . Maybe a more regulated enforcement is needed. I know government employees at MTO are overworked in this so maybe it’s time for a governing body like OMVIC or College of trades to set up .

  7. Patrick Martin says:

    he needs to be stripped of his license and thrown behind bars. these are the types of people who make it hard to do honest business in this industry. it’s pathetic that they would even consider a lighter punishment. how many more must die?

  8. He is not the victim here, He is the cause and should never be allowed to work in the auto motive sector again, He has proven he cannot be trusted or relied upon when the safety of others is at stake. He should be jailed based on his past record of issuing false safeties. He is incompetent at the least and a criminal with intent to defraud putting lives at risk. Jail him, Fine him not to make an example but to enforce the law!

  9. Bob Ward says:

    What Scott said is somewhat correct about consumers asking for a lenient or fake safety. The grey area is proving they requested one. If there were ways of holding the seller legally responsible I, personally would be all for it. The fact is, currently the seller has no responsibility whatsoever. The blame would be passed on to the issuing shop and tech who inspected the vehicle in question.

  10. Pat Smith says:

    Brantford on. known for Fake safeties’ & Emission tests.

  11. Conrad Van Bostelen says:

    I am sick of and tired of hearing about things like this! This man most certainly deserves prison time and I feel 6-9 months is not even enough, and should never be able to work in the automotive industry again! What is wrong with our governing bodies when he has already been charged with fraud in the past. He should not have even had a licence to sign off on any inspections due to pre-signing safety certificates from the past. We as technicians and shop owners have a obligation to keep drivers save on the road. If consumers do not want to keep their vehicles safe on the road they should not be driving. As a shop owner in Alberta we have extremely lax laws with no mandatory inspections other than out of province or salvage inspections. Otherwise we have insurance inspections which are created by the insurance companies and have no definitive guidelines. Maybe it is high time the federal government steps in and does something about this. Thank-you to all the technicians and owners out there who do their due diligence to keep Canadians safe on the road!

  12. GLENN BOTTOMLEY says:

    first off i totally agree with Joel .p.above , however the vehicle safety issue isn’t going away any time soon. There are more issues that need addressing , for example we need to educate the public as well as vehicle repair shops. as a licensed safety inspection station,on numerous occasions we have performed safety inspections, only to have the customer go and get a second opinion, sometimes word gets back that we are some how trying to rip them off by letting them know what defects need repairing to meet the safety criteria for vehicles on the road. Issues such as excessively rusty brake lines weather cracking in tires , brake rotors rusting & flaky ,etc etc. there seems to be no shortage of repair shops willing to overlook such items. why do we technicians fight among our self’s? trying to secure a new customer,(are customers that want the cheapest job the ones we really want) at the expense of safety? if we all got on the same page as to what is safe and what isn’t there would be more than enough work for all of us. as customers would have no choice but to fix the issue found defective in a inspection . the governments new safety regulations ,don,t leave a lot of room for discrepancy,therefore this shouldn’t be too hard.
    Now as to educating the public,perhaps a add campaign should be run as to the importance of a safe vehicle ,and the responsibility of the vehicle owner- operator, to maintain a safe vehicle, after all we all have the right to know that the vehicles approaching us on our highways are as safe as possible. isn’t this the very reason that we have a safety inspection at the sale of a vehicle! This brings up another nagging question Why! only when sold do vehicles need a safety , what regulates the safe condition if they are kept for years? especially in a province where any person is able to purchase brake & steering parts so readily. A few months ago the collage of trades were in for a inspection of my trade membership licenses, there representative informed me that i wasn’t allowed to work on my motorcycle as i don’t have the right designation on my license. But they still keep selling parts to me and everyone else who thinks themselves capable of vehicle maintenance. At least in the heavy truck world a annual safety is required, isn’t it time to perhaps mandate this with passenger vehicles? ,so they at least see a certified technician the odd time. JUST SUPPOSE the pick up truck that was involved in this fatal collision had never been sold, it still would have been on the road, in the unfit condition that it was in at the time of the accident! This is in no way a argument to sympathize with Mr Ramono. what he was doing is in no way excusable. This is to voice a opinion on the system.We need vehicles checked more frequently . most people get there oil change done by quick lube shops which are not staffed by certified technicians. so often these are the only people that see the vehicle. again it comes back to EDUCATING the public. people willing to perform a safety sight unseen & people seeking such safety’s need to be held responsible for there actions. they in my opinion are equally guilty! .

    • George S says:

      Hi Glenn. I agree with what you said. The standard is there–sort of, but there isn’t much of a way to enforce it. I think cars should be more like aircraft. Every year they should be subject to an inspection by a licensed technician and it either passes or not. I heard it said at a meeting down in the states years ago that if cars had to undergo the same maintenance as airplanes, not only would the streets and highways be a lot safer but emission controls would’ve been a lot longer coming into being (I used to think of the latter part of the statement every time a vehicle came in on a hook, which was often the only way the owner would get a tuneup done). I also think that if a shop determines that a vehicle is unsafe, they should be able to take it off the road. Maybe not actually drop the door on it but refuse to let it leave unless either the work is done or the vehicle leaves on a hook.

      I did that on a pickup. The customer came in complaining that his brakes were making a terrible noise and causing the pedal to vibrate. Pulled off the front wheels and the rotors were worn through to ‘turbine wheels.’ His rear drums were almost worn through and there was no lining whatsoever left on the shoes. I wrote up an estimate and the customer just told me to put it back together; he wasn’t prepared to fix it just now. I told him that if we couldn’t do the job properly, he’d have to get it towed off the place, and, IF we had to assemble it to run on its own power then I’d have no choice but to phone the police and inform them that a totally unsafe vehicle was on the road. The customer and I stared each other down for a spell but he finally gave in. I hate to do business that way but then I don’t wish to have my backside drug into court because I allowed an unsafe vehicle to go back on the road….

  13. Bob Ward says:

    I agree with Glen. We have been lobbying the government for biennial safety inspections for vehicles licensed in Ontario, but nobody wants to touch it. GEE I wonder why? Another way of making the MVIS program better would be to run it like Drive Clean. By that I mean have approved inspection stations who are regulated and the inspectors screened and receive mandatory training to stay current. These inspections would be done “live” and have pictures to substantiate the findings. This alone would clear up a lot of headaches the MTO has to deal with.

  14. Cesar Da Silva says:

    One of the problems, is that a safety is only required when someone sells & someone buys . One can own a vehicle for 20 years & what maintenance gets done , only when the vehicle breaks down . some time ago I happen to be sitting @ a traffic light when a P/U pulls along side in the lane next to me making that awful sound when break pads are worn , & you hear that metal to metal sound , & when I tell that driver that he needs to have his breaks checked , he yells back , is that what that sound is … Another question What if the seller had not sold & still driving (a safety would not be required) this accident would still have happened with a different driver ???????

  15. Bruce Goddard says:

    He deserves everything he gets and it probably won’t be enough. But from what I read in the news article since 2007 he has had letters of warnings from the MTO for infractions related to issuing safety certificates. Also court appearances with guilty pleas for selling pre signed safety certificates and selling fraudulent safeties .

    Three questions

    1- Why did the courts and the MTO allow him to operate for so long ?

    2- Why was his safety inspection station licence and mechanics licence not cancelled long before 2012 ?

    3- How many chances should we allow anyone ?

  16. Real tech says:

    Pretty ironic that the money he would make from the fake safties would pale in comparison to the money he would make by actually repairing the vehicles to the standard. Dumb Dumb Dumb

  17. Jim Dignem says:

    This guy is a criminal and a disgrace to the trade.His license should have been pulled years ago after three convictions.Put him in jail.

  18. Tig says:

    Here in New Brunswick, we have annual inspections required on cars and light trucks. As others on this page have mentioned, there appears always someone willing to inspect a vehicle with safety defects. We all have the same manual so there should not be any issues what passes and what does not. Over the last 21+ years we have lost customers who just want a sticker. Not a safety inspection.
    And you’re right in saying that we really do not want those people as customers. I do realize that some of out inspection points are a bit too picky but it is what is mandated. Out province does not have the resources to police this issue properly. It used to but does not concern me now when I see a vehicle that we rejected with a shiny new sticker form another shop on the windshield.

  19. Bob Ward says:

    If we are going to get anywhere with the MTO we need to focus on public safety. We know the current system has many flaws the unscrupulous operators use to undermine the system and jeopardize public safety in the name of making money. If we, as professionals, offered assistance in helping close down these illegal operators and the MTO process for shutting them down was accelerated and more successful there would be fewer of them around. Petition your MPP and professional associations for help to eliminate them. I am sure, from a government perspective, by improving the enforcement process and getting more timely convictions with penalties that have teeth, this would lead to improved public safety.

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