HUDSON, Fla. - Lisa Richko admits she got taken. "At first, I was really embarrassed that I let somebody... I'm the most non-trusting person."
Richko says she accepted an offer from Nicholas Johnson to fix her dented truck. He promised to make it look like new for $250 and do the work right in her front yard.
"So it made it easy all the way around, and the price was right," she said.
But she quickly found out the work wasn't right. And she wasn't alone. The Sheriff's Office says the Hudson man ripped off at least 14 people, and that number is growing.
Investigators say he would sometimes pull out a dent and then tried to mask an unfinished job with car wax. But told customers it was acidic.
"(He said,) 'If you touch it, it will burn your hands, wait at least an hour after I leave before you take it off.' When they took it off, they found the damage was worse than before," said Detective Bruce Cohen with the Pasco Sheriff's Office.
It didn't take long for people to notice the repair work just wasn't right. In some cases, investigators say, Johnson even used Play-Doh to patch things up.
"When I took a look at the putty, I was able to still scrape it off. it was still wet," said Cohen.
Investigators charged Johnson with scheme to defraud and say he took between $150 and $350 per person, with victims in Holiday, Hudson and Pinellas Park. Two of them were in their 80s.
Richko says Johnson even had his young daughters with him and used a sob story to convince her he needed half the money up front. But he never came back to finish the work.
"He does look like a nice, normal, everyday guy that will help you," said Richko.
Investigators say Johnson would spot victims in parking lots and follow them home to offer his services. The Sheriff's Office wants more of his victims to come forward.
If you may have been a victim of this fraud call Detective Cohen at 727-847-5878, extension 7213.
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