Unlicensed mechanics generate hundreds of consumer complaints in Florida

Customers say they lost money

TAMPA - A Tampa mechanic advertised quick and affordable repairs, but a couple of his customers say they were taken for a ride.  I-Team reporter Jackie Callaway found they are just two of more than 200 complaints involving unlicensed mechanics state investigators anticipate this year.

The Pontiac died shortly after Brian Robinson drove it off the lot.  Robinson and his girlfriend scraped together a few hundred dollars and found Eric Grandberry's craigslist ad for low price mobile car repair.

This couple claims they handed over their savings, $360 to Grandberry last December.  They say that was the last they saw of the mechanic and their money.

Department of Agriculture investigator Frank Pitts explains it is illegal in Florida for someone to advertise car repair services if they are not registered with the state.  Grandberry is not registered.

Palm Harbor resident Patrick Hickey says he too hired Eric Grandberry.  This customer says he paid Grandberry more than $300 last November.  Hickey claims the mechanic removed a bad head gasket and was suppose to return and install a replacement, but never did.

In both 2011 and 2012, an average of 250 Floridians reported trouble with an unlicensed mechanic, over 100 complaints more than in 2010.

Before hiring anyone to work under your hood:

  • 1) Ask for proof  they are registered with the state
  • 2) Check out their complaint record with the Department of Agriculture or the Better Business Bureau
  • 3) Get a referral from someone else who has already had work done by that person.

Brian and Patrick admit they did not check Grandberry's registration or his complaint record, but we did.  

The I-Team found 10 arrests between 1997 and 2011 for charges ranging from possession of counterfeit license plates to grand theft and violation of probation.  And in 2010, the 40-year-old went to prison for 10 months for violation of probation related to a 5-year-old grand theft case.

Grandberry would not answer our questions on camera, but told me on the phone that he no longer repairs cars.  He admits to taking money from both victims, but disagrees with their version of what happened.  

After investigating those two complaints, the Department of Agriculture hit him with a $600 fine.

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