NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A Norfolk car dealership is in hot water with U.S. Navy officials after reports of “unscrupulous business practices” involving service members.

Navy Region Mid-Atlantic has put Carafello’s Auto Sales, LLC, located at 6328 E. Virginia Beach Boulevard, on the “off limits” list for all Hampton Roads service members due to reports of “bird-dogging.”

Bird-dogging occurs when someone refers a prospective customer to a particular dealership or salesperson for a given fee or compensation.

Recently, officials said the dealership resumed bird-dogging targeting young sailors outside the gates and Navy Exchange. Several sailors were sold vehicles without being in possession of driver’s licenses.

“Carafello’s practice of selling automobiles to personnel without driver’s licenses unfairly targets junior service members, taking advantage of their limited financial understanding or ability to walk away from a negotiation.”

Navy Rear Admiral Scott Gray put the dealership on the list and said it was about protecting the young service members under him.

“Bottom line is, I have a responsibility to ensure that we take care of our young sailors, especially the youngest of the young. They don’t make a lot of money and I took this action to make sure to protect them from unscrupulous practices, ” he said.

The process of blacklisting a business includes going up through the chain of command by way of collecting evidence and making inquiries based on that information.

Gray said sailors he received months’ worth of testimonies of sailors being scammed by Carafello’s.

“There were multiple folks over the course of multiple months, so it wasn’t a one off,” Gray said. “It was a pattern that developed that drove us to act.”

He said while there are many resources available in the armed forces for members to educate themselves on making sound business and personal decisions, they still run the risk of falling victim to potential scams.

“But you can’t get to everybody and not everybody listens, and frankly even those who do listen can be influenced or pressured into doing things against they’re better judgment,” Gray said.

Bird-dogging, or using someone outside the business to help with a sale, is illegal according to Virginia law. The Navy Region’s press release Thursday reiterated that.

“Only salespersons licensed to a dealership can assist customers with the purchase of a vehicle,” officials said.

This is the second time Carafello’s Auto Sales has made the off-limits list for bird-dogging. The dealership was previously placed on the list back on Nov. 12, 2015, after the Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board (AFDCB) became aware of the dealership’s practices. It was subsequently removed from the list on March 14, 2016, after providing information to the board that demonstrated the dealership was again in compliance with Virginia motor vehicle dealer laws and regulations.

Carafello’s isn’t the only local business on the off-limits list. The current list includes:

7 City’s Custom & Design, 1062 37th St., Norfolk

7 City’s Custom & Design, 117 E. Princess Anne Rd., Norfolk

Best Price Auto Sales AKA US Auto Excellence, 3336 Holland Rd, Virginia Beach

Carafello’s Auto Sales, LLC, 6328 E. Virginia Beach Blvd., Norfolk

Mellow Smoke Tobacco Shop, 1948 Diamond Springs Rd., Virginia Beach

Outer Edge Gifts, 760-B J. Clyde Morris Blvd., Newport News

Prime Auto AKA Skyline Auto, 4114 E. Indian River Rd, Chesapeake

The Vault, 86 W. Mercury Blvd., Hampton

The Vault, 15435-B Warwick Blvd., Newport News

The Vault, 4746 George Washington Memorial Hwy., Hayes

TKYU Bar, 1910 Atlantic Ave, Virginia Beach

Military officials say these businesses will remain on the list until the next scheduled meeting of the Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board (AFDCB), at which time the board will reconsider the status of each business on the list.

Gray said what he needs to see to consider making the business available to Hampton Roads service members again.

“What they would have to show and prove to us is that they changed their ways and they’ve operated in a way that would preclude that from happening again.”

He said the next AFDCB meeting should take place in the next thirty to sixty days, wanting it to be sooner rather than later.

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