FOX 8 Defenders: Minor vehicle dents cost consumers big time

METAIRIE, LA (WVUE) - It's been an expensive lesson for Bob Breck's wife, Brenda, but she hopes by sharing her experience she'll help others.

She shared pictures of her damaged SUV with us. Trying to park in a lot, she explained that she hit a cement post.

"I had very little damage to my car. There were like two little dents here and then some white scrape stuff," Breck said.

Not even 10 minutes after she got to her Metairie home following the accident, a man rang her doorbell offering to fix the vehicle. Her doorbell camera captured the man saying, "I work for Rocky's Mobile Auto Body on Williams out in Kenner."  Breck explained to him that she had somebody who could do the repair work, but the man at the door told her he could do it in two hours for $800.

Breck agreed, but two hours turned into two days. "They were here all afternoon and into the night at 8:30 until I got Bob to go out and tell them they could not continue to work in the dark because they had already sprayed the wrong type of paint on the car," Breck said.

Her surveillance camera captured the two men working in her driveway the whole time. At one point, they shined the headlights from their vehicle toward her SUV just so they could see, and continued to spray it in the dark.

The next day, her SUV was still taped up, and you could tell they painted the damaged area the wrong color. Breck explained the two men also drilled holes in her car, an old-school technique industry professionals say they no longer use to repair dents.

By then, Breck was so uncomfortable, she just wanted them gone. She asked for a copy of both their licenses. One of the men, Paul Kent, shared his ID.  The other man didn't, but wanted Breck to make the check payable to him. His name was Johnny Jace.

Later, she called an appraiser to evaluate what it would cost to fix her SUV the right way.  "When he figured up the cost, it was over $5,000," Breck said.

"Any layman could see that the car had been repaired and repaired improperly," said Chris Antonatos with Nola Collision in Metairie. He explained that in Breck's case, the two men who claimed they could fix her vehicle actually did more damage. "So we have to start over. We have to take all that product off and start over again and start fresh," he said.

Instead of taping the trim and parts of the SUV the way they did it, Antonatos explained a proper paint job requires a contained environment, the right materials and equipment and stripping the trim around the windows for example so the paint work is seamless.  He's seen dozens of cases involving what he calls "dent gypsies," and several concerns come to mind.  "Not paying any taxes, they don't have any insurance, they don't have the credentials to be doing the car," Antonatos said.

"They have a legitimate business within the state of Louisiana, but it doesn't necessarily mean that there's a local place where they (consumers) can go and complain about it," Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto said. He told us Jace is the registered agent of Dent Kings, LLC, an auto repair company in Kenner, according to the Louisiana Secretary of State's online business database.

However, the Sheriff says Jace and Kent did violate parish ordinance. They didn't have a solicitor's permit which allows for door-to-door sales in JP. The Sheriff's Office says it will take action on that end, but Breck's complaint of shoddy repair work is a civil issue.

"Some work was done. It just wasn't up to the quality that we expect, and that doesn't mean that there was fraud involved.  We have body shops around this city, around this parish, around this state that you'll have mechanics and body men that will do bad work," Lopinto said.

Brenda Breck is not alone in her experience.  "We now have what looks like somebody decided to take a bunch of shots at the car," Sal Tramontana told us.  Someone drilled 11 holes into his late elderly father's car.

"A gentleman approached him and asked him if he would like him to pull the dent out for him, and he could do it for a reasonable price.  I can't remember exactly.. $50 to $100, something like that, and my father said sure, go ahead.. no problem," Tramontana said.

Living on a fixed income and trying to cut corners, Tramontana says his father, well into his 90s at the time, paid the guy cash, but he never returned to finish the job.

"Today's vehicle is really.. the metal is thinner so you need to not be putting any holes in it.  You need to be welding studs onto it and pulling the dent from the outside," explained Antonatos.  His collision center technician demonstrated the proper way to repair a minor dent.   Using a welding machine, the tech slowly works the dent out and later comes back to sand and smooth it.

"Knowing what the FOX 8 Defenders do, I know how many people get taken advantage of out there, but it's still always a shock to know that it's a relative of your own," Tramontana said.

Tramontana and Breck hope sharing these experiences, maybe they can help other consumers who may get approached in their neighborhoods.

According to the JPSO report, a detective tried several times to reach Johnny Jace.  On the fourth attempt, it says Jace answered the phone and confirmed he owned the company, Dent Kings.  The report says Jace handed the phone to another man who identified himself as Jace's father.  After a brief conversation, the detective wrote that the father hung up on him, and the Sheriff's office hasn't been able to reach Jace since.

The FOX 8 Defenders also tried reaching Jace.  On three different numbers, people claiming to be Jace's parents answered and told us their son was not affiliated with Dent Kings.

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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