ABERDEEN, NC (FOX 46 WJZY) - An auto body shop, which had promised to restore custom cars, is under state investigation accused of ripping off veterans.
"This was the front of my car," said Army Special Forces Officer Alan Lancaster, holding his fender.
In 2014, Lancaster took his 1966 Mustang Coupe, which he had since he was 15, to Icon Customs in Aberdeen, near Fort Bragg.
Three years later it's a shell.
"The only thing they've done is generously stripped everything off my car," he said, "to give someone else a shot at putting it back together."
Before deploying to Afghanistan, Lancaster took his classic car in to have it fixed up and re-painted. He says he paid $17,000. The shop is now closed and under new ownership. But Lancaster found several parts to his car buried in their warehouse.
Fox 46 discovered he's not alone. Nick Bortnick, a veteran now living in Florida, says his 1967 Mustang Fastback was also stripped. So was Ron Marra's son's 1982 Plymouth Barracuda.
"It's a mess," said Marra, who says his son shelled out more than $6000. "It's worse now than when it was brought here."
Aberdeen Police are looking into 18 other complaints against the shop, alleging Icon Customs took money but "failed to make repairs."
Fox 46 has learned North Carolina's State Bureau of Investigation and the DMV License and Theft Bureau area also investigation allegations of fraud and the illegal switching and removing of VIN numbers.
Lancaster and two other veterans are currently suing.
"I have a hard time thinking it's anything but a scheme to defraud them," said Lancaster's attorney Ryan Smith. "These gentlemen are serving our country and they were taken advantage of in the worst possible way."
Fox 46 tracked down the owner of Icon Customs, George Fredericks, at his home. Outside were more classic cars he says he is repairing.
"I don't blame them for being upset," said Fredericks.
"You have a lot of veterans that are unhappy with you," said Fox 46 investigative reporter Matt Grant.
"No I dont," said Fredericks. "I have a few veterans that are unhappy."
"What would you say to them?," asked Grant.
"Just told them we started this program for their intent," said Fredericks.
Fredericks says his heart and intentions were in the right place. But he admits he took on too much, too fast and blames staffing and not enough money to finish the jobs.
"My biggest problem is I gave away too much stuff," he said. "I told people I'd do too mch. I undercharged people"
But a secret recording, obtained by Fox 46, appears to show Frederick's son, who worked at Icon Customs, offered a bonus for every car stripped and had a strategy to stall.
"That's why we have 60 cars here," he said in the recording, which was made earlier this year. "'Cause the only way he (George Fredericks) makes money is by opening more jobs and taking deposits and just letting it sit forever."
Frederick's son told Fox 46 he was referring to taking in more short term jobs to earn enough money to pay for the more expensive long term repairs.
Fredericks says while state officials put the brakes on his business, he wants to make things right and says he has no issue with giving refunds to customers "who paid."
"I'm more frustrated than anybody," he said.
Except, maybe, Lancaster.
"My gut feeling was telling me it was too good to be true and I should have went with my gut feeling," said Lancaster. "It would have saved the last two years of heartache."