A Shelby, OH, shop owner who restored classic cars was sentenced June 10 in a Richland County courtroom to four years in prison for scamming numerous customers across the country.
Keith Shellhouse also was ordered to pay over $180,000 in restitution to his victims.
The owner of Pro Restorations by Independent Autobody Plus, in Shelby, was convicted earlier this year of aggravated theft, theft of a motor vehicle, falsification and tampering with records.
“Shellhouse tried to paint the picture that this was all a civil matter, but obviously the judge and jury recognized it for what it was, outright thievery,” said Richland County Sheriff’s Major Dale Fortney. “This was a textbook collaboration between the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and our sheriff’s office with assistance from (the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, National Insurance Crime Bureau), Ohio Department of Taxation, Ohio Department of Motor Vehicles Crash Repair Board and the Bureau of Motor Vehicle Investigations.”
Fortney commended Richland County Sgt. Rich Eichinger, investigator Kevin Hobbs, of the Attorney General’s Officer Consumer Protection Section, and Jonathan Blanton, who led the AG’s office prosecution team, for working the case since August 2011.
The case included more than 20 victims and more than $200,000 of total theft, according to Fortney.
“Victims claimed that Shellhouse would take their cars, parts and money under an agreement to restore their antique and classic cars,” Fortney said. “Victims reported that they gave Shellhouse their cars, but he would never complete the work. While the cars were at Shellhouse’s garage, some for over eight years, they were kept outside or in an unenclosed area where they were exposed to the weather. This resulted in the cars becoming severely damaged by rust, rendering them completely inoperable. The evidence in the case included photographs of a tree growing through the front area of a car that was left outdoors.”
Attorney General Mike DeWine created the Economic Crimes Unit in March 2011 to identify criminal conduct in consumer fraud cases.
“These folks trusted Keith Shellhouse to help make their dreams come true and he paid them back by turning their dreams into rusted hulks,” Dewine said. “It just makes you sick.”