More than a dozen classic car owners, including many soldiers, say they are out thousands of dollars thanks to Icon Customs, a car restoration shop in Aberdeen, NC.
"I've spent the last two weeks scouring for my parts," said Nick Bortnick, whose 1967 Ford Mustang Fastback was supposed to be restored at Icon Customs.
Nick dropped his car off back in 2015, where he says at first all he wanted was for the car to be sandblasted, painted with primer, and undercoated. He paid $1,500 for that work, and then the owner of Icon, George Fredericks, surprised Nick with some big news---they would restore his car free of charge.
Nick was told he would be the first soldier to have his car restored under what's known as the “Wheels from Valor” program. It was a program Frederick said he started at Icon. Hearing this news, Nick says he was ecstatic.
However, that excitement began to fade after he says little progress was made on his Mustang as month after month passed. Nick says he supplied many parts to Icon and would try and help in any way since he knew the Wheels from Valor program was going to help him get his car back to being restored.
After two years of waiting, Nick finally went to Icon to get his car. He says it was heartbreaking.
"When I picked up the car, it was actually sitting in that corner behind you, jammed behind a lot of these cars that are torn apart," he recalled.
More vehicle owners claim work not done
Alan Lancaster, another soldier, says he was also taken advantage of by Icon Customs.
Alan now lives in California. But while stationed at Fort Bragg, he took his red 1966 Mustang Coup to Icon in 2014.
For Alan, this was more than just a car. It was his first car; it was a priceless car. He paid $17,000 to Icon to bring his Mustang back to being roadworthy. In August 2015, after returning from a deployment, Alan said he was disappointed that his car was not finished after writing so many checks. It was then he said Fredericks told him that Wheels from Valor would be taking Alan's project to the next level in appreciation for his service.
Alan was thrilled, but two years later, this is how Alan's car looks after being at Icon since 2014.
"The car that I once had running and driving, to no longer being close to that," he said.
Soldiers weren't the only ones asking questions. BJ Beal paid Icon $5,000 to do some body work and paint his 1977 Ford Mustang Cobra. However, he says two years later, he is left with a big mess.
BJ explained the rear end of his car, which was already done, and he says should have never been touched, is completely gone. This is what his car looks like now.
"I don't even know if I will---or when I will---be able to do anything with it. That's the frustrating part," said BJ.
For owners like BJ, restoring their car was something they say they saved up for years to be able to do. They had taken their cars to Icon to see their dream come to life. Now, many are left wondering if they will ever have a chance to see that dream again. Others are left frustrated over not only having their dream shattered, but the financial loss this tragedy has cost them.
One vehicle owner, who asked us to not use his name, says he paid Icon more than $30,000 to restore his 1964 Chevrolet C-10. He has a stack of invoices that show the new parts he paid for, but after waiting for two years, his truck was left looking like this.
Another issue the vehicle owner faces is the VIN number---it's missing from his truck. He told us that Fredericks told him he removed the VIN number to work on restoring his truck, but says when he talked with the DMV, they informed him that that's illegal.
Action against Icon Customs
The Aberdeen Police Department, the NC DMV License and Theft Bureau, and the SBI are now involved after receiving several complaints. According to the police report from the Aberdeen Police Department, more than a dozen customers of Icon Customs complained about work not being done on their vehicles.
A representative with the DMV shared with us this statement:
"On 08/21/2017, NCDMV License and Theft Inspectors received information that Icon Customs was compromising vehicles by switching and/or removing PVINs. A PVIN is known as a Public Vehicle Identification Number.
By using the statutory authority granted by the North Carolina General Statues, Inspectors entered the business located at 10570 NC Hwy 211 East in Aberdeen. Once inside, Inspectors located the owner, George Steven Fredericks, working in a back shop area. Inspectors located in the back shop area where Fredericks was working the vehicle that was described to Inspectors as having the PVIN compromised.