CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46 WJZY) - George Fredericks, the owner of a now closed auto body shop near Fort Bragg, who is accused of ripping off veterans, was "not correct" when he told a small claims judge under oath that the state concluded its fraud investigation into him and concluded he did nothing wrong, a state official confirms.
"The claims made by Mr. Fredericks regarding the investigation by the License & Theft Bureau are not correct," said DMV spokesman John Brockwell. "The investigation into Icon Customs by both the License & Theft Bureau and other agencies is still active."
Outside court, Fredericks denied what he said.
"We talked to the DMV and they say they're still investigating you," said Fox 46 investigative reporter Matt Grant.
"OK," said Fredericks. "I was told by clients they told them they weren't."
"They say that's not true," said Grant.
"OK," said Fredericks.
"Why did you tell the judge that if it's not true?," Grant pressed.
"I told the judge I was told that," said Fredericks, which is not accurate.
Army Special Forces Ofc. Alan Lancaster took Fredericks to small claims court and lost. He's one of more than a dozen alleged victims who tell similar stories of having their classic cars sit for years only to be returned stripped, in pieces and ruined.
"I'm left holding the bag after spending $17,000," said Lancaster. "I literally have a car that's in complete, utter disarray."
Tonight, FOX 46's investigative reporter Matt Grant is talking with an attorney who says there's one simple thing this veteran could have done to protect himself and win in court.
Despite having invoices, emails and even a test message from Fredericks saying "I will make whole the 17k," the judge dismissed the case because Lancaster never had a formal contract.
Another veteran, who also sued Fredericks before he was about to deploy, was awarded $4000. Lancaster's attorney tells FOX 46 he plans to use the state's confirmation that Fredericks was not truthful in court as evidence to discredit his future testimony when they appeal the case.
The judgment did not surprise attorney Walter Bowers, who specializes in contract and business law and is an Iraq war veteran.
"It's vital" to have a contract," said Bowers.
And if a company wont give you one?
"Run, run fast," he said.
North Carolina law requires auto repair shops give written estimates for work over $350, Bowers said. Without a written agreement he says deals that head south are left open to interpretation by a judge and attorneys.
"You leave it up to the court to make a best guess," said Bowers. Bowers recommends having a clear contract in place that:
- Outlines the "scope of work" agreed upon
- Gives a timeframe for when the work will be completed
- Outlines an agreed upon price
- And, if possible, arrange to make a down payment first and give the rest upon completion and inspection of the work done.
Army Special Forces soldier Nick Bortnick, who now lives in Florida, also did not have a contract when he gave Fredericks his 1967 Mustang Fastback.
He is now the sixth person to tell us Fredericks took him for a ride - keeping his classic car for two years and leaving it as, Bortick describes, "sheet metal and tires that's about it."
"First I was completely upset and now I'm just pissed," said Bortnick. "The fact somebody could do this to not only another individual but a soldier that's out there risking their lives for our country...it's just unbelievable."
Fredericks says he got in over his head, "gave away" too much and promised certain parts that he later could not get.
The small claims judge said it was clear working on the cars was "not a priority" and that veterans were "harmed" by Fredericks' actions but felt he did not act in "bad faith."
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