Troubleshooter Alert: Online shopping and faulty engines

Troubleshooter Alert: Online shopping and faulty engines (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - What started out as a legitimate business deal to buy an engine stalled before the buyer ever turned the ignition.

When people want to find a repair company lots of them turn to the internet rather than the phone book. But, there are certain things to check before people do business with any of them.

Kehli Bowen, a fraud victim, said, "I went online looking for the block, all of the specifications were there. The website seemed legitimate. I actually made a phone call and I actually had a conversation about the engine."

Bowen said he found exactly what he was looking for on the site Bowen said he did his homework, talked to the seller directly and looked up reviews of the site. He was given an invoice with letterhead and everything so that was official too. He sent a personal check for $900.

It had a delivery date but that never happened. The website was owned by John Keplinger.

Christopher Stanton Hales, assistant US Attorney, said, "Claimed he was selling auto engines but he never sent them. He took people's money, cashed the checks and typically did not send what people had paid for."

Keplinger's business "may" have started with good intentions but quickly turned fraudulent or even worse: dangerous.

"They had not been tested, they had not been refurbished in the way he claimed that they had, so we had some victims who had their engines fail while they were driving on freeways," said Hales.

Three hundred victims lost more than $300,000 across the country. Bowen said he felt he did his due diligence and wasn't sure that he would do anything different.

"I called the number and had a conversation, that's a big thing for me. If I can hear a person's voice it gives it some sense of legitimacy," he said.

However, postal inspectors said some simple searches can quickly uncover a scam.

Steve Basak, US Postal Inspector, said, "Find out where they are located, that's actually a really good indicator. Check that phone number out. You can do a google on the phone number and a lot of times that phone number comes out to be fraud."

Keplinger was sentenced to 27 months in prison for his crimes and ordered to repay his victims a total of $302,000.

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