Auto shop owner accused of stealing customers' vehicles

MARIA ST.LOUIS-SANCHEZ Updated: October 3, 2012 at 12:00 am • Published: October 3, 2012

A Colorado Springs auto shop owner arrested Wednesday sold cars for scrap without permission of the owners, let employees race customer cars, forged vehicle titles and even asked an employee to get hand grenades so he could “blow up police officers,” according to his arrest warrant.

Gregory Dale Ehnes, 56, was recently arrested on a Sept. 28 warrant on suspicion of theft and crimes against at-risk adults, as well as several other possible charges. His bond was set for $100,000 and he remained at the El Paso County jail Wednesday evening.

According to the warrant, police have been investigating Ehnes and his auto shop Springs Transmission and Automotive for some time. Investigators interviewed customers who took vehicles to him in early 2011. Police executed a search warrant at the business in early September and Ehnes also was arrested later in the month after Fountain police say employees took a car from the shop, got in a wreck with it and then lied to police about what happened. Fountain police said Ehnes tried to cover for his employees.

In his most recent arrest warrant, Colorado Springs police cited several cases where officers say Ehnes stole from his auto shop customers:

• A 65-year-old customer said Ehnes kept his Ford Explorer for more than a year, even after he had paid $1,800 to get the transmission fixed. When a police officer showed up with the man to retrieve his car, Ehnes couldn’t find the engine. He told police that he had given the old engine away and the owner did not want to pay for a new engine. The stereo also was missing from the vehicle.

• A woman took her vintage 1981 BMW, worth $20,000, to Ehnes in January for repairs. She left the vehicle with him because she could not afford the repairs, she told police. In September, police searched for the car and found it heavily damaged at a scrap yard. Records indicate that Ehnes’s employee had sold it for $232. The woman told police that she did not authorize its sale.

• A couple brought its 2001 Volvo S60 for repairs and asked Ehnes to sell the car when he told them it needed $3,000 in work. When he didn’t sell it for seven months, the couple tried to have it towed someplace else, but Ehnes said it had been sold to the scrap yard. Records indicate that an employee of the shop had received $403.20 for the vehicle. The scrap yard had the title – which the couple admitted they had probably left in the glove compartment. They said they had not signed it and police said the signatures on the title did not match theirs. During the investigation, police found several cars from auto shop that had been sold to scrap yards.

• An elderly couple took its Ford Crown Victoria for transmission repairs. He told the couple it was fixed, but it was in such bad shape that they promptly returned it. Later, Ehnes said the vehicle had engine problems that also needed to be fixed. At the instruction of police, they asked for the vehicle back and inside the trunk was the vehicle’s drive shaft and transmission housing and what appeared to be air intake parts, according to police. They had to have it towed. An employee later told police that another employee had taken the car, raced it and “blew up the engine.”

Along with the cases listed in the affidavit, police have received complaints from about 15 other people about the auto shop.

After his business was searched in early September, Ehnes grew strained under pressure, employees told police.

On Sept. 12 — about a week after officers had searched the business — police got a call about a “suspicious person” outside the business. The person was an employee who said he was on guard duty, and said his boss had asked him several times to get hand grenades so he could “blow up police officers,” according to the affidavit.

Two days later, police went to Twisters bar, 2810 E. Fountain Blvd. in response to a disturbance with a gun, according to the arrest warrant. A woman told police that she had been instructed to hide a gun inside her purse for Ehnes. She said he “wanted to cause a disturbance in the bar which would cause the police to respond.”

Deon Bester told the Gazette that his 2001 Cadillac sat in the auto shop for five months even after he paid about $2,600 in repairs. When he got it back, there were coffee stains all over the inside and it stank as if someone had slept inside it, he said. The car never ran properly and he ended up selling it, essentially giving up the money he had put into it for repairs. He doesn’t plan to try to recoup his losses.

“I’m just going to let that go,” he said Wednesday. However, he said, he’s glad that Ehnes has been arrested.

“I think he should definitely be held accountable,” he said. “People like that should not be out there ripping people off.”

Contact Maria St. Louis-Sanchez: 636-0274

Twitter @mariastlouis

Facebook Gazette Maria St. Louis-Sanchez

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