33-year-old Nicholas Johnson of Port Richey, Florida was arrested and charges with scheming to defraud and retail theft. He allegedly walked around his neighborhood searching for cars that needed bodywork, offering the owners to fix it for them.
He then used Play-Doh to make it look like some preliminary bodywork had been done, promising to return the following day- which he didn’t. Victims do have some civil remedies to help them recover some of their losses.
According to consumer lawyer Robert Murphy of Fort Lauderdale, Johnson would have had to have registered as a repair shop, provide disclosure statements, and estimates. Because he violated these requirements, he opened himself up to civil liabilities.
“The unhappy consumer may also have a claim under the Florida Deceptive Trade Practices Act,” says Murphy. “And if the consumer lives in a county that’s adopted the typical consumer protection ordinance, there is usually a specific section dedicated to auto repair shops… Lastly, there are possible claims for fraud, misrepresentation, negligence misrepresentation, and fraud and inducement,” he says.
The only issue is finding a lawyer that will take on the case. “It’s unlikely that an attorney would take a case against a guy using Play-Doh to fix cars who’s in the hoosegow,” Murphy says. It is very unlikely that Johnson will have any money and lawyers tend to only take on cases they can profit from.
“So consumers should contact the local state attorney handling the matter, and forward evidence of their damages,” Murphy recommends.
Paul Hudson | Elite.