May 17, 2008

Car repair scam on Briggsmore costs driver $586

A Modesto man who said he was conned out of $586 in a car repair scam is afraid others will be victimized by the same con artist.

Gene Cash, 85, said a man told him at a stoplight at Briggsmore Avenue and Sisk Road on Thursday evening that smoke was coming from the rear of Cash's car.

Cash said that when he and the man pulled over, the man told Cash to push on the brakes while the man checked an area in the rear of Cash's vehicle, a 2001 Lincoln Town Car.

According to Cash, the man gave his name as Joe and said he worked at Heritage Ford in Modesto.

Cash said that after he worked the brakes, the man pointed out a small fire that had started in the trunk and hooked a diagnostic device to the Town Car's cigarette lighter.

The man said the device indicated that Cash needed a new computer relay, which the man offered to install for $486, adding that the car was dangerous to drive otherwise.

He then charged Cash $100 for the part, Cash said, and gave Cash a phone number to call if there were any problems.

Cash said he paid the full amount in cash, and that the entire episode took place in about 30 minutes. The man installed the part in a fuse box, Cash said.

Heritage Ford employees told Cash on Friday that they had no such employee working there, and the phone number was invalid.

"I realize now that he ripped me off," Cash said. "I think he might have even put the same part back in that he said wasn't working right."

Cash went to the Modesto Police Department to file a report Friday, but was told he couldn't file a report because the situation was "after the fact."

Modesto police Sgt. Craig Plante said that response was in error, because Cash's situation appeared to be a case of fraud rather than a civil matter.

"I wish he'd asked for a supervisor to discuss it with rather than going to the media," Plante said, adding that he would contact Cash to take a report. "It does sound like a scam."

Cash said he's worried the scam artist may try to con others. Cash said the man was in his 40s and had a dark complexion. He was traveling in a tan Ford Explorer with a woman who also had a dark complexion. There were children in the vehicle.

Bee staff writer Ben van der Meer can be reached at or 578-2331.

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