FOX 46 gets car restored for veteran firefighter ripped off by auto shop

- A Charlotte firefighter is glad he turned to FOX 46 to get results.

"Y'all are good," said Jeff Phifer, a nearly 30-year veteran of the Charlotte Fire Department. 

FOX 46 and Caliber Collision surprised Phifer at Charlotte Fire Station 8 Monday with his fully restored 2009 Ford F-150. 

Last month, Phifer turned to FOX 46 for help after taking his truck to Uptown Collision in Matthews. Records show the auto shop cashed an insurance check for more than $5000. But more than two months later his truck was still sitting at the lot untouched. 

When Caliber Collision managers heard what happened they offered to fix Phifer's truck for free. 

"We wanted to say thank you on behalf of Caliber for everything you do in the community," said Caliber Collision vice president of operations Brandon Hawkins. "And all you give back to everyone in the Charlotte area."

Local businesses, like LKQ and a Ford dealership, donated parts. 

Phifer called the community's generosity a blessing.

"It is awesome," said Phifer. "The dedication everyone put in for me it really looks great."

More than $5000 worth of parts, time and labor were donated free of charge. It's their way to say thanks to someone who is a Boy Scout leader, makes bicycles for kids and risks his life for others every day.

"People appreciate for what I did in the community," said Phifer. "But more importantly I appreciate what everyone did for me and my family."

"It was great to be able to do this for him and all the things he's given back to the community," said Hawkins.

Other victims

FOX 46 spoke with four customers, including Phifer, who say Uptown Collision took their money but never did any work. In all four cases, customers said their car sat at Uptown Collision untouched for months. 

Matthews police opened an investigation. The case could be referred to the North Carolina Department of Insurance for fraud. 

"I was just wanting to get my car back," customer Jerome Jones, said.

Jones brought his BMW to Uptown Collision in October 2017 to fix a right rear down. In February the shop still had the car. Jones accuses the shop of stealing his windshield, which didn't need to be replaced and swapping it for a cheaper non-BMW glass. 

His door was replaced with one that had a dark tint. None of the other windows on his car are tinted. 

The trim is missing. The brake and engine lights now come on. And there is a hole in the windshield that didn't need replacing.

"I just think they took this whole door off another old car or something," said Jones. "This door is not matching. Tinted glass? It's just ridiculous. It don't make sense to me."

Evicted

Uptown Collision has been in business less than a year. A sign that was out front before FOX 46 began airing stories advertised the shop with the slogan: "Repairing your car one PART at a time."

Now the sign is gone, replaced with an empty wood board. 

The landlord for the property, Julia Todd, said she evicted the owner of Uptown Collision, Jafar Saniri, weeks ago when he stopped paying rent.

"His partners were giving him their portion of the rent money and then he was never paying us," said Todd. "We kicked him out pretty quick."

An employee still working at the shop says he's owed money. Jones says that employee told him Saniri spent his insurance money - money meant to fix his car - at car auctions. 

"He said the guy (Saniri) is using the money to go to auctions and buy more cars to get ready for tax season to sell cars to make more profits," said Jones.

As for Phifer, he says it's not just his truck that is restored. It's also his faith in humanity.

"We have results," he said. "If you look at my truck that is proof FOX News has results."

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