MOORE COUNTY, NC (FOX 46 WJZY) - Around a half dozen veterans sat in the Moore County Courthouse to challenge the man they say took them for a ride.
The owner of Icon Customs, George Fredericks, is accused of taking money from veterans to repair their classic cars but never completing the work.
Many veterans visited the shop because it was close to Fort Bragg. All tell similar stories of their cars being dropped off, sitting for years, only to be left in ruined.
"How come you took money from veterans but never completed the job?" asked FOX 46 investigative reporter Matt Grant.
"Did it sound like that was what was just said in court?," Fredericks replied.
"The court found in favor of my client on [inaudible] of all counts," his attorney later added. "That's all you need to know."
The judge dismissed one case but ordered Fredericks to pay another veteran $4000 for work that wasn't finished and for which he was "harmed."
The judge said it was "difficult" to understand why cars sat for years without being worked noting that it was clear the work was "not a priority."
The judge later added he felt Fredericks had not been operating in "bad faith." The judge called it a case of "buyer beware."
"I'm left holding the bag after spending $17,000," said Army Special Forces Officer Alan Lancaster, whose red 1966 Mustang Coupe is now a shell. "And I literally have a car that's in complete utter disarray."
Lancaster brought his childhood car in for a paint job and body work. Three years later it was stripped, parts are missing and Lancaster says it's in worse shape than when he brought it to the shop in 2014.
Lancaster showed FOX 46 a recent estimate from another body shop saying it will cost $18,000 to repair the damage.
Last month, Fredericks told FOX 46 that he wouldn't fight the veterans taking him to small claims and said "we got to make that right" after admitting he never completed the work he was paid to do.
Instead, he hired an attorney and spent eight hours in small claims court fighting two veterans he took money from. Additional cases are pending.
Despite Fredericks admitted he double-billed Lancaster for a part he never installed, and never reimbursed him for; despite Lancaster having invoices, emails and even a text message from Fredericks saying: "We way over committed myself and I bare the responsibility. I will make whole the 17k you believe is right," the judge ruled against Lancaster because he did not have a formal contract.
His attorney plans to appeal. In court, sitting behind Fredericks, other veterans sat and watched and are waiting for their day in court next.
"All I wanted was a paint job," said Robert Beal, who says he lost more than $5000 when he took his 1977 Mustang to Icon Customs. "Car drove in the shop and came out in pieces."
"I got it back in pieces, a thousand pieces," said Army veteran Jamaal Young, who says he is out $12000 after taking his 1972 Chevelle SS to be repaired. "No fenders, no engine there was just everything missing."
And Joe Kihm, a retired Navy reservist says he's out $7000 after dropping off a similar car. "A six month paint job ended up taking over three year and was never completed," said Kihm. "Now all I have is a shell. No windows, no bumpers."
Despite the cars sitting for years, Fredericks told the judge he was still working on them and says he didn't finish only because he had to stop when the state raided and shut down his business two months ago.
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and the DMV License and Theft Bureau are investigating Fredericks for fraud.
In Court, Fredericks told a judge the DMV investigation found nothing and cleared him of any wrongdoing, but that isn't true.
DMV officials told FOX 46 right before he appeared in court that the fraud investigation into Icon Customs "is on-going" and that investigators continue to "gather material."
"We talked to the DMV and they say they're still investigating you," Grant informed Fredericks outside court.
"OK," Fredericks said. "I was told by clients they told them they weren't."
"Why did you tell the judge that if it's not true?," asked Grant.
"I told the judge I was told that," said Fredericks, misrepresenting what happened in court. Fredericks has previously admitted he got in over his head and had promised to do repairs without having the parts.
But a secret recording obtained by FOX 46 appears to show the shop had a financial incentive to stall.
"That's why we have 60 cars here because the only way he [George Fredericks] makes money is by opening more jobs and taking deposits and just letting it sit forever," said his son, Trent, in a recording made secretly by another employee.
Trent Fredericks says he was referring to taking in more short term jobs to pay for long-term repairs. While Fredericks has not offered a refund to any of the veterans we talked to he did offer an apology.
"Do you apologize to the veterans?," asked Grant.
"Absolutely," said Fredericks. "For just apologizing for the program not working out. It wasn't for a lack of effort that's for sure."