Federal Agents Raid Locksmith Company's Headquarters
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A NewsChannel 5 investigation recently exposed some of the unscrupulous practices of a national locksmith chain operating in Middle Tennessee. Federal agents have raided the headquarters of Dependable Locks in Florida and arrested the owners.
Consumer investigator Jennifer Kraus said the company's owners face charges for doing many of the things the NewsChannel 5 investigation first uncovered.
Back in May, NewsChannel 5 Investigates showed how employees of Dependable Locks did business. Our undercover investigation revealed how they quoted customers one price over the phone, but then tried to charge a whole lot more. They first told our producer it would be $39 to unlock her car, but when the locksmith showed up, he wanted $150.
The owners of Dependable Locks are facing federal charges after agents raided the company's headquarters in Clearwater, Florida. They seized computers and documents and even took one of the owners off in hand-cuffs.
Moshe Aharoni, his partner David Peer, and an employee based in Missouri are all charged with money laundering, wire and mail fraud. They're also accused of instructing employees to overcharge and deceive customers.
After Wednesday's raid in Florida, Doug Smith with the United States Postal Inspection Service told reporters, "This reaches throughout the United States. It happens to be based here in Clearwater, Florida and this is where a lot of the employees were working."
The office in Florida also served as the company's national call center where investigators said calls for emergency locksmith services came in from across the country.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates found ads for dozens of locksmith companies that listed fake addresses and local phone numbers. Federal investigators confirmed that calls to the numbers were all forwarded to the Dependable Locks office in Florida.
That's where investigators allege that "dispatchers were instructed to misrepresent or understate" the cost of services. Investigators also maintain that locksmiths were told to charge significantly more than the quoted price.
Court documents also spelled out how Dependable Locks employees were "trained to use coercive and intimidating techniques to ensure" that customers paid up.
While the locksmiths NewsChannel 5 busted didn't want to talk about what we caught them doing, neither did the owner of Dependable Locks as agents led him away.
The raid and the arrests were coordinated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Missouri Attorney General's office, who launched the investigation after getting dozens of complaints from consumers about being overcharged.
The state of Tennessee has also received dozens of complaints about Dependable Locks. As of yet, the Tennessee Attorney General's office has not taken any action against the company.