Body shop owner suspected in car scam

May 12, 2009 Police suspect the auto body shop owner was illegally rebuilding and reselling vehicles.

The car owner in our story admits she was naive. Too trusting, she says, of a man who came recommended.

Before prosecutors can consider charges in her specific case, they need to find her car.

"My car just went spinning and spinning and spinning, straight into the median," said Charlene Collier, car crash victim.

A hit-and-run last fall gave Charlene Collier a good scare and left her Nissan Altima pretty banged up.

It was towed to King Auto in Villa Park. That's where Ms. Collier says body shop owner John Franko told her internal frame damage meant fixing the car would cost more than she owed on it and suggested junking it.

"I thought it was over. No car, nothing I could do about it so I told him to junk it. He told me don't worry about it, he'll take care of it," said Charlene Collier, car crash victim.

Collier's been driving her mother's car to work for the last eight months. She assumed her own vehicle was in scrap metal heaven. That is until she began receiving toll violation notices that include a photo of what appears to be her car back from the dead, and ding-free.

Collier and her mom marched over to King Auto Body to demand answers. They never expected to have a reunion.

"The car was in there, right in my face! I told my daughter get in there. Get in there and take a picture of the car," said Camille Collier, mother.

"I ran through and I snapped the pciture and in the picture I got their employee getting into the vehichle with my license place on it," said Charlene Collier.

Last year, the Secretary of State's police charged Franko with illegally running an unlicensed used car dealership.

On Monday, DuPage County prosecutors added theft, forgery, and insurance fraud charges.

"The bottom line is anytime you give up a car whether it's totally, you sell it, or donate it... get rid of those license plates, get them off the car," said Dave Druker, Illinois Secretary of State's spokesman.

"He saw me coming. Innocent 'little not knowing anything about cars' girls. Yeah, she's coming. Let's just take her for a ride and that's what they did," said Collier.

The new charges against Mr. Franko don't involve Charlene Collier's car. But police say they are working with her and other possible victims and expect to add to their cases.

Collier's car is once again missing. It vanished sometime between the time she and her mom snapped those photos last week and the police raid Tuesday.

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