CLEARWATER — The man who approached Kin Powell in Clearwater's Northwood Plaza parking lot two years ago was friendly, knowledgeable and seemed to be on the level.
So when he said he would go to Powell's house and fix the dents in his Jaguar for only $450, Powell was sold.
"He certainly talked a good game," Powell said.
The quality of the man's work, however, wasn't so good.
"It was in worse shape afterward," Powell said.
The incident wasn't isolated, authorities say.
Frank A. Adams, the man Powell claims cheated him, targeted several North Pinellas residents in an auto repair scam, according to Pinellas County sheriff's deputies.
In one instance, Adams and a female co-defendant whose name was not disclosed are accused of driving an 84-year-old female victim against her will to a bank, making her withdraw $400 and then robbing her of the money, according to an arrest affidavit.
Adams, 27, of 2917 Catherine Drive in Clearwater was arrested Tuesday and is being held at the Pinellas County Jail in lieu of $110,000. He faces felony charges of scheme to defraud, grand theft, strong-arm robbery and false imprisonment.
According to Adams' arrest affidavits, he approached his victims in shopping center parking lots.
"He typically targeted females and elderly," Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda said.
Powell, 62, of Clearwater, said Adams' deal to fix his car sounded like a good one and was believable.
"I was going to save money and more importantly the downtime would be minimized," Powell said.
According to Powell, Adams brought a small child with him to Powell's residence. The boy played with Powell's dog while Adams worked on the car. Powell said he saw Adams sand and spray paint the dented areas before finally covering them up with some sort of compound.
Initially, everything looked fine. But when Powell had his car washed the following day he noticed "patches all over and mismatched paint."
Powell said the car needed $2,000 in repairs, which he split with his insurance company after filing a vandalism claim. Powell said he didn't call authorities after the incident because he figured it was mostly his own fault.
But then he encountered Adams again in the same parking lot earlier this year.
"He pulled up and didn't recognize me," said Powell, who now drives an Infinity. "He said, 'I can fix that big dent.' "
Powell said he had choice words for Adams, who then sped away.
When a carwash manager told Powell a few weeks later deputies were looking for people who had been scammed, Powell contacted deputies.
"I want the kid taken away from him," Powell said, "and I want him incarcerated as long as the law will permit."
Keith Niebuhr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4156.