HOUSTON – In Houston, reliable transportation isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. This is why it is so important to choose a reputable repair shop. KPRC 2 investigator Amy Davis gets the results of an investigation she started five years ago.
You know the saying “the wheels of justice turn slowly”. This case definitely proves it. But prosecutors at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office say there are steps consumers can take to protect themselves and make it easier for the prosecutor to sue mechanics if things go wrong.
Viewer calls KPRC 2 Investigates for help
“What is your name?” KPRC 2 investigator Amy Davis said.
“Have a nice day,” the man said.
“No, we’re not going to have a good day, sir. You kept this woman’s car for six weeks, ”Amy said.
In 2016, Maria Gonzalez called KPRC 2 Investigates when she couldn’t pick up her Jeep from an auto repair shop on the Eastex Highway and Little York.
“He’s missing,” said Maria Gonzalez. “I don’t know where it is and I don’t know who has it.”
Shortly after, store owner Anthony Vasquez and his brothers Shawn and Adrian Gee left customers’ vehicles in pieces and took off, skipping their rent.
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“I think this guy stole my car,” Randy Exom said.
In 2017, Randy Exom and other Shawn Gee customers couldn’t find their vehicles when Gee was kicked out of that store.
“Nine hundred dollars and nothing,” said James Peterson.
In 2018, James Peterson called us when he said he paid Gee to put a used engine in this Pontiac, but he never got it.
“It’s unarmed robbery,” James said.
Why was it so difficult to lay charges in these cases?
“In mechanical matters, it’s rare that we can bring a complaint because they’re very difficult to prove,” said Adam Brodrick, Harris County DA Consumer Fraud Attorney.
UPDATE 2021: Finally, prosecutor Adam Brodrick of the Harris County DA Consumer Fraud Division laid a charge of theft that remained.
Shawn Gee pleaded guilty to theft and agreed to pay restitution of $ 6,591 in return for being charged with a misdemeanor instead of a felony.
“I just hope he learns his lesson and stops ripping people off,” Peterson said.
Over the phone, Gee told me he was only pleading guilty to move on and put the criminal case behind him.
Here’s how to avoid auto mechanics scams
Brodrick says there are a few things you can do to avoid bad mechanics.
1. Never pay in cash
First off, Brodrick explains why you should never pay cash at the repair shop.
“The money is very hard to trace, it’s really hard to prove in court,” Brodrick said. “It’s much better if someone says I paid $ 500, here’s the check I paid with.”
2. Get a work order
Second, get a work order or something in writing when you drop off your vehicle. Even if it only says they’re running diagnostics to find out what’s wrong with your car.
3. Take a copy of the order with you
Third, sign the work order and make sure you take a copyright.
“What happened is that after they leave, the scammer will complete five other different things to do for this automobile. But because we have the original work order which shows only one thing. was made, we can deny that, ”says Brodrick.
All of these things will protect you and allow the prosecutor to press charges if they can prove that the mechanic acted with criminal intent. To do this, they usually have to have multiple victims to prove that the mechanic used the same pattern and tactic to take money for a job he never intended to do.
In Gee’s case, now is the time when restitution is due. If he doesn’t pay her, a date for his criminal theft trial will be set. We’ll let you know what’s going on.
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