A Pasco man is accused of offering to fix dents in peoples' cars, but instead of repairing it like a normal technician, investigators said he used Silly Putty and paste wax.
Pasco detectives said Nicholas Johnson, who also goes by the alias Nicco Gileo, was a pretty smooth operator. He was arrested but bonded out Wednesday afternoon.
And what this so-called "Slick Nick" didn't figure on was that one of his victims took to social media and the internet to learn more about him. She did her homework and then confronted him and got her money back.
Now she wants to get the word out before anybody else gets taken.
"It was a scam artist pure and simple. He was out there trying to rip people off," said Sheriff Chris Nocco.
Johnson is accused of using silly putty or some sort of molding clay to make fraudulent repairs on people's cars.
There are at least three victims.
"I think I've got at least 10, and I expect to have considerably more," said detective Bruce Cohen.
Cohen said Johnson – using silly putty, spray paint and some paste wax – was convincing people to let him make repairs, then skipping with their money before they realized what had happened.
"He's very well-spoken. He speaks gently to people. He's not threatening. He's not intimidating, and he's a very smooth talker," said Cohen.
Cohen said his phone's been ringing non-stop, from victims like Lisa Richko. Johnson saw she had a dent in the rear quarter panel of her red pickup truck.
"It was kind of bumped in, someone had backed into me in a parking lot, so it was just dented in," said Richko.
She said Johnson offered to fix it for $250.
"He made it sound easy. He'd come to my house and take care of everything," she said.
Cohen said Johnson mostly appeals to seniors and part of the scam is he brings along his wife and kids, so potential victims see them as a family.
"He had his daughter in the car, very trusting guy," said Richko.
"They feel safe. He's a family man, and he seems like a guy that would be safe to deal with," said Cohen.
"It was filled-in, and he told me he would be back the next day to finish it, sand it, and then he would paint it, and I was real concerned about the red matching; it's hard to match red," said Richko.
And when he never showed her face turned as red as her truck.
"It's embarrassing coming forward," she said.
But she wants to make sure nobody else loses any money.
Richko said Johnson covers the putty with paste wax.
"And he would tell the people not to touch it from, I've heard from an hour up to three days, get paid in cash, leave and never come back," said Richko.
She tracked him down and followed him for days.
"Lisa was very dogged about the case to say the least," said Cohen. "She had gone to the courthouse that he was at and was waiting for him after one of his court hearings."
"My husband approached him and said, ‘You know why we're here,' and he said I didn't do anything illegal," said Richko.
Apparently what he charges is not enough to take someone to civil court, but that doesn't make it right.
"You know your parents always tell you it's too good to be true. I would go with that," said Richko sheepishly.
We knocked on Johnson's apartment door, but nobody answered.
Detective Cohen said always check with the Better Business Bureau or just call the Pasco Sheriff's Office. Chances are if it's a bogus business, it's already on their radar. Richko's out $800, which is what it took to get the mess cleaned up and fixed by a professional. If you think you've been scammed by Nicholas Johnson, contact the Pasco Sheriff's Office.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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