STONE PARK, Ill. (CBS) – A car damaged during a terrible storm is now at the center of multiple state and local criminal investigations. CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini exposed the car repair nightmare, and part of an alleged ring of unlicensed auto repair shops in the Chicago area.
Sabrina Richards owns the 2004 Infinity that was damaged during a storm this past July. It was parked, while she was in a meeting in Oak Brook, when part of a roof crashed down onto it.
“I just thought it needed a new windshield and a new hood, and some different parts,” said Richards, whose insurance company was going to total the car.
She wanted it repaired and took it for further estimates. One was from Downtown Auto Sales in Stone Park. The owner, David Allen, promised he could fix it for the $15,000 insurance money being offered.
The check was cashed in July, but Richards car has yet to be fixed.
“It [car] is being held hostage,” said Richards.
Richards says what happened to her should serve as a warning to anyone trying to use insurance money to fix a car.
She thought her insurance company should have checked out Allen’s business before letting him get a hold of her insurance check.
However, officials from the Illinois Department of Insurance say since Richards chose the shop, the insurance company was not responsible for checking to see if it was licensed.
Richards says she had no idea it was not licensed and that Allen had been arrested before for unlicensed auto repair.
“I feel betrayed, I feel angry,” said Richards. “I feel disgusted, because the one thing I do is try to be honest with people.”
Richards says the insurance company sent Allen her insurance check, and it was cashed even though she never co-signed it.
She says she believes he put her signature on the check; it shows a single “S”, which is how she signs her name. It is how she signed her contract with Allen.
CBS 2 repeatedly tried to talk to Allen. He would only speak by phone and said he had problems finding parts.
Authorities tell CBS 2, Allen’s company, and another one he did business with, are now being investigated by a state task force that includes Stone Park Police, which has impounded Richards’ car as evidence.
“I want my car repaired, I want it back,” said Richards. “I want it working fine.”
While waiting for her vehicle to be fixed, Richards says Allen gave her a 20-year-old gas-guzzling loaner car which caused her more troubles.
She was pulled over for the muffler and ticketed for improper license plates. Also, the service light was constantly on.
“I think it needs some sort of a tune up,” said Richards, who is now without a car.
She says Allen took back the loaner when police seized her car.
Authorities say Allen is licensed to clean and detail cars, and is being investigated for forgery and illegal repairs.
Police sources say they have now uncovered information that makes them believe this is all part of a larger ring of unlicensed shops doing business together.
The Illinois Department of Insurance also is investigating.
Authorities recommend using a repair shop licensed by the Illinois Secretary of State; you can ask to see their license.