For Jeffery DeSalle of New Orleans, driving his Ford Expedition could get dangerous.
"I might go out of control. I might run into something. I don't know," he said.
He showed us the treads on his tires are worn and going bald. The problem is he paid Lugs Tire & Wheels on Jefferson Highway for four new tires and 24-inch wheels or rims, but he's never received them.
"I paid in cash money, and every time I was going in there, they'd write it down," explained DeSalle.
He said he paid a total of $1,935. DeSalle has receipts dating back to 2015 when he first started making small payments toward his order. By September of 2016 he had paid Lugs Tire & Wheels $1,450, and after he was paid in full, he says the owner never delivered on his order.
"They kept giving me a story...after Christmas and after Thanksgiving and after the New Year came in and gave me another story and then he said the place went out of business where they get the tires and rims at," DeSalle said.
When DeSalle asked for a refund, he was told the business could not do that. He's not the only consumer who's turned to the FOX 8 Defenders for action.
Algiers consumer Melanie Noble took Lugs Tire & Wheels to Jefferson Parish Small Claims Court and won a judgment against the business, but still can't get her money back. She bought four used tires and wheels for her daughter's Honda Accord for $350 in October, and like Jeffery DeSalle, paid cash.
"Because they was only accepting cash at the time. They had sign saying cash only," Noble said.
She actually got her tires, but when she got home with them, her mechanic said, they weren't the right size. Noble returned the tires and wheels and was given a store credit, which details that "customer will need a set of wheels or her money back." Six months later, she has neither.
She's reached out to the Better Business Bureau for help and the Louisiana Attorney General's office. She explained that when she went to small claims court, an employee there suggested she call the FOX 8 Defenders.
The Jefferson Parish 5th District Justice of the Peace Office confirms at least eight people have filed claims against Lugs Tire & Wheels, and $15,000 in judgments have been rendered against the business, yet consumers haven't seen their money.
The Secretary of State's office shows the business was registered in 2015. Michelle Lynn Jewusiak is listed as the registered agent and an officer of Lugs Tire & Wheels. Another officer named is Dennis Michael Manieri Sr.
Jewusiak's Facebook page shows she's the salesman/owner since 2012, yet when we went to the business and talked to Jewusiak, she told us she was only the secretary up until a month ago. According to her, she just took over the business from the previous owner, Dennis Manieri, who we've not been able to reach.
Jewusiak shared paperwork with us that shows she filed documents with the Secretary of State in September to open a new LLC, HTW Motorsport Custom Wheels at the same address as Lugs Tire & Wheels. During and after that time, Jeffery DeSalle and Melanie Noble paid Lugs Tire & Wheels cash and both say they dealt with 'Michelle.'
"I was going there, and she (Michelle) said, 'Oh you gotta talk to Don.' I think he was the manager or whatever, but he was never there," Noble explained.
Michelle Jewusiak wouldn't talk on camera, but told us she didn't know the extent of the company's debt.
"I wanna take care of everything. I intend to make good on Jeffery's wheels and at least three others who are on the top of my list," Jewusiak said. However, she went on to say, "If I can't get money in two weeks, I have to shut down."
Meantime, consumers have been out hundreds of dollars now for months, and their patience has run out.
Any time you make a significant purchase, experts suggest you do not pay with cash. It's recommended you use a debit or credit card because it's easier to dispute a charge with a bank or credit card.
The FOX 8 Defenders staffed with volunteers from the National Council of Jewish Women also field consumer complaints at 1-877-670-6397 or you can fill out an online complaint form.
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