Too good to be true? Phoenix car repair shop good reminder to protect self before hiring business

PHOENIX - Sometimes a good deal isn't what it appears. That's what happened when customers at one local car shop were tempted by a low price offer that turned out "too good to be true".

They say the shop did not do the job for the price quoted.  

Steve Dancy said he paid $6,300 to spruce up his 1971 Pontiac Firebird. Bruce Dillman said he paid $6,500 for his 1980 Toyota Land Cruiser. And, Shirley Cochran said she paid $6,000 for her 1956 Ford Thunderbird.

They wanted the interior and exterior restored.

They each brought their classic cars to Mark Behlke at his business, Terrific Paint and Customs, for restoration.

They found his listing on Craigslist.

"He talked up his ability to do things, no problem," said Bruce.

According to Bruce, the owner demanded a big chunk of money up front -- this should have been the first red flag.

A quick online check shows complaints involving Behlke and his work. But, Steve, Bruce and Shirley didn't see them.

Shirley had a contract, but the others didn't.

It could have been any job from roofing, air conditioning or swimming pool repair. Regardless, you take a chance when you hire someone to do work for you.

So protect yourself by checking the business' reputation online. Make sure they have a license if it is required. And, look for warning signs like demand for a lot of cash up front.

"He takes the money up front, doesn't do the job, dismantles the vehicle and then tries to milk you for the extra money," Bruce explained.

Steve said he was missing parts. Bruce said, "It was dismantled, no windows in it. The interior [was] out of it." Shirley said her car had a huge scratch and she ended up with someone else's parts.

All three said Behlke's work was substandard and incomplete.

Behlke's troubles go further back.

Jerry Green owns the south Phoenix building where he said Behlke kept cars and did very little work.

Green said the place was full of cars. He didn't notice people driving away happy with the work.

Eventually, Green kicked Behlke out for not paying rent. At the time, he said there were 52 cars that had to be towed away at the expense of their owners.  

Behlke moved on, but the ABC15 Investigators found him advertising on Craigslist again.

We used a classic Corvette to meet with him undercover. And with our hidden camera rolling, we asked him about the complaints.

He wouldn't talk with us on-camera. But, he did send us an email which read that his work was "either completed as per agreed or… they pulled the car". He added people were "looking to get more than they paid for".

Behlke wrote us that he was filing bankruptcy and moving on. But, the ABC15 Investigators found Behlke in jail, newly arrested for violating probation.

Court records show that the probation violations involved thousands of dollars in bad checks that he wrote back in 2005.

It's his customers that are moving on by taking their classics to other shops and paying thousands again.

Hopefully, this time they will all have contracts.

Make sure you have one. You can even contract payments tied to progress.

Before hiring anyone, check out a business reputation online including the following sites:

Ripoff Report

Better Business Bureau

Arizona Registrar of Contractors

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