LAPORTE — A diesel mechanic has been sentenced to restitution and one year probation in connection with business dealings at his repair shop.
Erik Smith, 41, of Wheatfield, was sentenced in LaPorte Circuit Court Feb. 28. The judge accepted his guilty plea on five counts of level 6 felony conversion and one level 6 felony count of deception.
He must pay $18,500 to nine victims, including the town of Wanatah, which was overbilled when a rebuilt engine was placed into a dump truck instead of a new one as promised.
According to court documents, Smith operated "Steroid Diesel" shops in Wanatah and Westville.
He allegedly received money up front to perform major engine work on pickup trucks and heavy machinery in 2014 and 2015.
Things started unraveling, though, when customers wondering why the work hadn’t been finished weeks later began showing up to take back their vehicles, court records said.
By then, police said, the shop had been evicted and relocated to Westville.
However, when customers went there that shop looked abandoned, police said.
One customer from Newton County, unable to get his vehicle back, reported it stolen.
According to court documents, LaPorte County Police recovered customer vehicles from both shops following a monthlong investigation.
Some were in various stages of repair.