Southeastern News

1HomePageMap small se 0816Local news stories affecting the auto body industry in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, and West Virginia

Florida’s rainy summer is starting to catch up to Bay area auto body shops according to local media reports.

Workers at Elite Euro Cars Collision Services in Spring Hillin Hernando Cty, FL, are busier than ever, but the wet weather is putting them behind. Rain, heat and humidity are the culprits. With the summer rains in full force and then some, a side result is in increase in weather-related auto crashes, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

The agency is reporting almost an additional 200 crashes this year in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties compared to this time last year. That is keeping auto body shops busy. One of the more reported, rain-related crashes is rear-end collisions. Many shops say the constant rain and hot weather is hampering business.

“The issues we have are the chemicals we use to repair the vehicles are all depended on low humidity,” said Jeff Turner, owner of Elite Collision. “The waterborne products and solvent-borne products we use, they both have to evaporate to dry.”  Turner said he now has to rely on the costly practice of using indoor heaters when the rain picks up.

The Nashville I-CAR Volunteer Committee recently raised more than $15,000 for the Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF) during the group’s annual golf fundraiser in Mount Juliet, TN. The funds raised at the outing will be reinvested back into collision school programs and students in the Nashville area through grants and student scholarships from the Collision Repair Education Foundation.

The event took place on May 15, 2013 at the Windtree Golf Club.  The 100 participating golfers enjoyed lunch, a round of golf, snacks and beverages on the course, and dinner.  They also had the opportunity to partake in a putting contest, closest-to-the-pin contest, and raffle drawing.

Instructors and students from local collision schools were also in attendance and got the chance to speak with the donors who support their school. Many industry volunteers and corporate sponsors helped make this event possible. Inter-industry organizations and individuals who are interested in supporting the Education Foundation should contact Brandon Eckenrode at Brandon.Eckenrode@ed-foundation.org or 847-463-5244.

Auto Body Speed Shop (ABSS), a repair shop located in Jacksonville, Florida, is located in a high-end strip mall. ABSS uses its location in the site of a former Blockbuster video store to create a retail look and feel for its customers. The facility boasts floor-to-ceiling windows that allow customers, as well as window-shoppers, to see techs at work. For added transparency, the shop has a live camera on its shop floor so anyone on the website can see what is happening in the shop at any given moment in real-time. Another rare occurrence, wind spires, can be seen on the far side of the property. The three wind spires work in conjunction with rooftop solar panels to decrease utility costs for the shop. The visual uniqueness is sure to make them memorable to both customers and spectators alike.

Jennifer Vasseur could have gotten six months in jail, but when she couldn’t make restitution, she was given a seven-year prison sentence. As part of a plea deal, the 38-year-old Winter Haven woman had to repay more than $20,000 that she stole from A&E Auto Body in Eagle Lake, where she worked as a bookkeeper and secretary. The deadline was July 9. She was short about $15,000. Her punishment was up to Circuit Judge Catherine Combee to decide. She ordered Vasseur to serve seven years in prison followed by 10 years of probation.

Vasseur was arrested in May 2011 after an investigation by the State Attorney’s Office in Bartow. She wrote unauthorized checks in her name, her husband’s name and to cash, according to a complaint affidavit. Vasseur told investigators that she took the money to help pay bills, the affidavit states.

Rewards totaling $35,000 were given to four Floridians who provided key information that led to arrests and convictions in several major insurance fraud cases, according to an announcement by Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

The tipsters helped uncover almost $3.7 million in fraudulent financial activity leading to 17 convictions.

Rewards included:

  • $20,000 to a Ft. Myers individual whose assistance led to the conviction of 12 individuals in a personal injury protection (PIP) fraud ring and the closure of 12 unlicensed accident clinics with $3 million in potential insurance fraud losses.
  • $10,000 to a St. Petersburg individual whose assistance led to the conviction of an annuity scammer who defrauded nine elderly victims out of more than $580,000.
  • $5,000 divided between two Tampa individuals whose assistance led to the conviction of four PIP fraudsters and the closing of a PIP accident clinic.

These cases were investigated by the Division of Insurance Fraud, the law enforcement arm of the Department of Financial Services responsible for investigating all insurance fraud in Florida.  The department has awarded more than $340,000 to approximately 50 citizens as part of its Anti-Fraud Reward Program. The program rewards individuals up to $25,000 for information that directly leads to an arrest and conviction in an insurance fraud scheme.

A 49-yr old man is under arrest after surveillance cameras caught him stuck in a fence while trying to escape from Reynolds Auto Body Shop on Cervantes Street in Pensacola, FL on July 8. Weatherspoon was trying to steal items stored out back of the shop, including  "two space heaters that were in the scrap pile going to the scrap yard, and a ten-year old radar detector," said Daniel Williams at Reynolds Auto Repair.

But as Weatherspoon tried to make a quick getaway and jump the fence, he got stuck, just as police arrived. "Luckily he wasn't smarter than a fence. He was caught bythe fence, and when PPD got him, he had his leg up, caught in the act, [literally] red-handed," said Williams. Police say Weatherspoon also had marijuana on him when he was arrested.

But the hapless Weatherspoon wasn't the only less-than-competent thief trying to steal from local auto repair shops that night.

John Denman, Owner of Discount Mufflers at 500 E Cervantes St., Pensacola, FL, reported a break in at his location. "It didn't sound like they were really on top of their game there," said Denman. He has owned Discount Mufflers for 20 years and said that, while his auto repair shop has been broken into before, this latest criminal is in a class of his own.

"They hurt themselves real good in the process because we had blood all over the floor and all over the cars and stuff" Mechanics spent the morning replacing windows the suspect broke while trying to access the shop. Denman believes the suspect actually broke in twice because he moved a tool box in front of the broken window the first time... Only for it to be knocked down again hours later. And apparently it wasn't money the suspect was after. Rather, it was gas.

"There were some wrenches on the floor where they had came back into the building, and at that time they got the extension cord and the drill," he said. Denman believes the suspect tried to drill into the gas lines of cars at the shop. But unfortunately for the suspect, the drill was broken leaving him empty-handed.

Police are still looking for the suspect in the Discount Mufflers break-in.