A VP at the Largest Porsche Dealer in America Just Vanished with $2.5 Million in Buyer Deposits
Champion Porsche claims it had no idea Shiraaz Sookralli was scamming people. His victims aren't buying it.
As vice president of marketing at the largest Porsche dealer in the country, Shiraaz Sookralli personally handled some of Champion Porsche's most valued and deep-pocketed clients. Over the last year, he collected over $2.5 million in customer deposits for dozens of the company's ultra-exclusive 911 GT3 and GT3 RS models.
There's only one problem: The cars never existed, the money is missing, and Sookralli just vanished without a trace.
That's according to a lawsuit filed by the dealership against Sookralli in Florida's 17th Circuit Court last week, which first surfaced online in an explosive thread over on Rennlist, one of the most popular online forums for Porschephiles. Beset by financial woes, Sookralli allegedly created a shell company called "Champion Autosport," produced fake documents to trick buyers into thinking they were placing a real order with the dealership, and diverted their money into a secret bank account—one that's since been emptied out. The documents also state that Sookralli admitted to all of this in emails and phone calls with Champion Porsche, though his whereabouts are unknown.
With more than $2.5 million gone, it's on track to be the largest fraud case in the history of Porsche Cars North America, once the dust has settled. The scale of the fraud makes criminal charges a likely development.
The dealership claims to have had no knowledge whatsoever of Sookralli's actions prior to his disappearance at the end of August in the lawsuit. But that explanation isn't sitting well with the would-be owners who have neither their cars nor their cash—and a previous suit involving Champion Porsche, Sookralli and a nearly-identical scheme is boosting their suspicions.
The Drive reached out to the law firm representing Champion Porsche, the dealership itself, and Porsche Cars North America, in an effort to nail down a final explanation as to how this happened—and what happens next. The outline of the case is fairly simple; far less clear is the depth of the fraud, if the dealership was truly blind to his actions, and whether the unwitting buyers will ever see their money again.
"The dealer involved, Champion Porsche of Pompano Beach, Florida, made us aware of this unfortunate situation," a spokesperson for Porsche Cars North America told The Drive. "Champion Porsche has assured us it will help Porsche buyers who might have been impacted and is asking those customers to give their information to Champion’s legal counsel."
Collecting Deposits for Non-Existent Sports Cars
According to the lawsuit, Sookralli started out as a salesman for Champion Porsche about a decade ago. By most accounts he had a fine reputation; the Rennlist thread starts with an innocent-sounding query for information on him, and one of the first responses calls him a "great guy" who's "always taken care of me."
It also helps to understand the ultra-competitive world of new, limited edition Porsches. Dealers only get so many allocations for models like the 911 GT3 and GT3 RS, and buyers line up months or even years in advance to secure their spot with a deposit. Markups are a fact of life, as are the occasional seedy salesmen. In short, Porschephiles have come to expect a certain level of chicanery along the way. Then there's the fact that Champion Porsche's status as the top Porsche dealership in the country makes it an automatic destination for many. So it apparently didn't raise any eyebrows when Sookralli told prospective buyers that they needed to wire their deposits to an entity called "Champion Autosport" and produced Buyers Deposit Agreements for their cars under that name as well.
But Champion Autosport only existed on paper. In reality, the deposit agreements appear to have had information for either fake builds or cars that already been promised to other clients through the real dealership. None of these orders were apparently ever placed. The deposit money was funneled into Autosport's Bank of America account, according to legal documents, which in turn was allegedly emptied by Sookralli and an accomplice named as Devika Budhram.
"This week, the Plaintiff first became aware of the actions of Shiraaz. Shiraaz, via email, communicated with the Plaintiff, and identified twenty-four transactions in his scheme to defraud the plaintiff and consumers. The amount of funds Shiraaz admitted to receiving is $2,560,198," the injunction to freeze the Bank of America account reads. "The Plaintiff is unsure if any funds remain... Although Shiraaz [spoke] with the Plaintiff via email and telephone, the Plaintiff is currently unaware of his whereabouts."
We spoke with two of Sookralli's victims. Jackson Wang told The Drive that he first got connected with Sookralli in February of this year through a broker on Rennlist who was advertising GT3 build slots. After doing his due diligence in verifying the business's reputation and Sookralli's employment there, Wang provided his credit card information to Sookralli and says the salesman was perfectly responsive over the next few months.
The charge on his account was listed indeed listed as Champion Autosport—but Wang says he felt comfortable with Sookralli's constant communication over the spring and summer and his assumption that his money was in the hands of the dealership instead of a third-party broker. It wasn't until last week that Sookralli stopped returning his calls. Wang checked with Porsche Cars North America and discovered that although there is a build in process under his name, it's for a completely different car than the one he requested.
Another victim gave us a similar story, saying that he was instructed to wire money into both the Autosport account and the dealership's real account, after which Sookralli allegedly cooked the books to make it look like the buyer was purchasing the car at MSRP and pocketed the markup himself. He did eventually receive a car, but it too was specced incorrectly and he says Sookralli pressured him into taking it anyway—raising the possibility that the model was intended for someone else.
Champion Porsche Pleads Ignorance...But Some Aren't Buying It
Champion Porsche isn't talking as it tries to sort through this mess. Multiple calls and emails for comment were not returned, and the dealership has reportedly been directing angry buyers to its law firm—which also did not respond to our queries. The little information we have comes from victims in the Rennlist thread and elsewhere who have shared their stories. One wrote that the dealership's attorney told him they would know more on the recompensing process by the end of the month, but that the ultimate goal was to make everyone whole again.
Still, it's a maddening time to be one of at least 24 people who fell prey to Sookralli's scam, several of whom have already retained legal representation as they seek to recoup their losses. The dealership's silence has exacerbated the issue; just check out the Instagram and Twitter accounts dedicated to hammering them (as well as Porsche Cars North America) for a response. And over on Rennlist, much of the thread is dedicated to figuring out just what Champion Porsche knew and when.
The most damning piece of evidence that the dealership knew Sookralli was at least capable of something like this comes from another lawsuit filed against both parties by a second dealer earlier this year. Back in the summer of 2016, M & L Luxury Cars entered into agreements to buy two $500,000 Porsche 911Rs, one directly from Champion through Sookralli and the second from an entity called Rampage Motors Inc.—another one of Sookralli's shells.
The first car was never delivered, resulting in a protracted back-and-forth over the state of the $350,000 deposit. The second was delivered but at a $350,000 markup, and M & L Luxury Cars' demand for a refund was met with a series of bad checks from Sookralli before the lawsuit was filed this February. Seeing as how Champion Porsche is directly named in the suit, it's impossible to believe the dealership didn't know about Sookralli's apparent predilection for fraud. Whether that constitutes legal liability relating to the current case will be a critical point of contention for both sides going forward.
There's another hint that the dealership might have known things weren't quite right with Sookralli—in detailing his financial struggles that allegedly motivated this crime, the lawsuit mentions that American Express had recently garnished his wages from Champion Porsche and that he'd been struggling to pay child support for his 10 children.
Then there are the complicated logistics of the whole affair. Did no one at the dealership wonder why all these potential GT buyers Sookralli handled never resulted in deposits on the books? Did no owner ever call to complain about any number of things with their fake order and incidentally tip someone off? Did he really act alone at the office? Again, Champion Porsche has so far refused to comment.
Porsche's Great Big Mess
It's hard to overstate how big a deal this is becoming for the dealership and Porsche's image in America. Several of Sookralli's fraudulent transactions crossed state lines, meaning it's likely only a matter of time before the FBI gets involved—if the Bureau hasn't done so already. The automaker depends heavily on the fierce loyalty and enthusiasm of its fans to drive demand for these high-end models, and its tepid reaction to what looks like a gigantic federal fraud case right under its nose has been widely panned on forums like Rennlist and elsewhere on social media.
The entire episode has also led to a lot of venting about the complicated and flawed dealership model and unflattering comparisons with the way other high-end manufacturers like Ferrari treat their clients.
"This has to be a wake up call, Porsche is hurting the customers that they should focus on keeping, the enthusiasts," user sampelligrino wrote on Rennlist. "Between the typical Pcar dealer arrogance/terrible experience in both sales and service, the [markups]... and now this surfacing with people losing a lot of hard earned money to try and obtain a car they really wanted, I've never been more turned off to the Porsche brand even as a die hard 911 guy. A shame too because their cars are killer."
This also isn’t the first time Champion Porsche has been in the news this year; owner Devindar Maraj tragically drowned off a Boca Raton beach earlier in July. Its sprawling and luxurious 22-acre campus a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean is something of a destination for the brand's fans around the country, and it's been known as a friendly and reliable place to snag your next Porsche. But 30 years of good business and goodwill might all be undone if the bleeding isn't stopped, fast.
"No matter the outcome, Champion's name is tarnished," another Rennlist user wrote. Others in the thread are convinced the dealer knew about Sookralli's actions, or that it's too late for it to say it didn't. Still others are half-joking about pooling their money to buy the business outright. "This is a classic case of this dealership [being] either incompetent or fraudulent, those are the only two inexcusable options."