Looks like you can’t trust all mechanics. Especially when you’re the millionaire owner of a rare car collection. The Des Moines Register reports that an Iowa mechanic has been ordered to pay over $7 million after he scammed the former CEO of Angie’s List on both repairs and classic car purchases.
The scamming began way back in 2010. Craig Hillinger was the owner of Healey Werks Corp. in Lawton, Iowa. Former Angie’s List CEO Bill Oesterle took his 1967 Maserati Ghibli to the shop for restoration. According to the suit, Hillinger quoted Oesterle a timetable of one to two years to complete the work for a price tag of “no more than $200,000.” Except that’s not what happened. Four years later, Hillinger hit Oesterle with a $1 million invoice.
Hillinger’s grift didn’t stop there. He would also do more work than was asked on cars that Oesterle brought to him. He would do complete restorations on cars that Oesterle only wanted a bit of work done to and then hit him with a big repair bill — bills that included costs for repairs that were never finished or parts that weren’t needed.
Even with all of this, Hillinger was still somehow able to convince Oesterle to help him purchase a classic car.
In one instance, Hillinger convinced Oesterle to go in on a purchase with him of an Austin-Healey 100M sports car. Hillinger told Oesterle, who gave $50,000 for the car, that it was a coveted factory model but needed some assembly, according to the complaint. It stayed with Hillinger until 2021.
When Oesterle finally received the vehicle, he “discovered that the 100M was not a factory 100M as Hillinger had promised,” the lawsuit states.
“Hillinger told Bill the 100M would cost approximately $10,000 to assemble and sent Bill an invoice for over $130,000.00,” according to the complaint. “The 100M was never assembled.”
The identification mishap “will cause Bill to lose an enormous amount of money.”
Now Hillinger has to pay up. Iowa 3rd district superior court Judge James Daane ordered Hillinger to pay Oesterle $2.4 million in damages. But the damages, which were then tripled because of Iowa motor vehicle laws due to the “willful and wanton disregard” for Oesterle’s rights. Hillinger also has to cover Oesterle’s legal fees.
Oesterle, who also sufferers from ALS, said that maintaining and restoring classic cars can be a process because you don’t know who you can trust. “Often that means you have to trust people across the country, or even the world, to deliver on what they say they have and what they can do. I would hate to know other collectors have been treated this way.”