David Bradford can't live without a dependable ride to the hospital three times a week.
He used to rely on his Nissan Pathfinder to get to kidney dialysis appointments. When it broke down, the U.S. Army retiree paid J. Acosta Auto Repair in Tampa more than $3,000 to rebuild the transmission and replace the radiator.
But the truck died minutes after he pulled out of the repair shop, Bradford said.
We questioned the repairs after finding state records detailing other repair related complaints against J. Acosta Auto Repair dating to 2012.
We asked Brazzeal Tire’s top technician Chris Wallin to examine the Nissan. In his opinion, the parts were not replaced. Wallin, who holds multiple certifications, pointed to undisturbed rust on transmission bolts and evidence that other parts connected to it and the radiator hadn’t been removed.
Marcos Toledo said he paid J. Acosta over $1,200 to replace the engine in his 1994 Cadillac last June. It hasn't run since.
I asked state investigator Frank Pitts with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to examine Toledo’s car.
He pointed to the absence of fresh bite marks and wrench scars that are usually made when the motor’s housing is removed as evidence that none of the essential parts had been removed.
I contacted Jenipher Acosta in April. She agreed to provide proof she paid for Toledo’s engine along with Bradford’s transmission and radiator, but she stopped answering our calls. State regulators responded to our findings and opened an investigation in May.
Now it appears J. Acosta has closed shop. She's failed to respond to state investigators, who now say the investigation could lead to criminal charges.
Here's how to protect yourself from questionable mechanics.
The Department of Agriculture’s website hosts a search engine that allows you to punch in the name of an auto repair shop. You can check to see if they are registered to do business in Florida and look up their complaint record.