Keith Shellhouse, 46, owner of Independent Autobody in Shelby, OH, was convicted May 7 of aggravated theft, a third-degree felony, and theft of a motor vehicle, a fourth-degree felony, at the Richland County Courthouse. Shellhouse was arrested on April 11, 2012, under more than a dozen customer complaints from as far back as 2002, claiming that customers were swindled out of nearly $300,000 in payments for the restoration of their hot rods. Shellhouse will be sentenced on May 20.
Gary Bishop, a Richland County assistant prosecutor, was one of several victims who reported losing thousands of dollars to Independent Autobody owner Keith Shellhouse.
Bishop dropped his 1967 Mustang GT Fastback at Independent Autobody and Pro Restorations in August 2006 along with a $3,500 down payment. It was the first car he had ever owned, since the age of 16.
“These weren’t just cars to many of us,” he said. “These were our dream cars. People were taking in their classic cars that meant the world to them, paying thousands, only to have them set out in the weeds and exposed to the elements.”
Because of Bishop’s position, the attorney general’s office was called in to handle the case.
In December 2012, local officials say they were prompted by complaints from 17 customers who claimed that combined they lost more than $300,000.
Richland County Sheriff’s Major Dale Fortney said there were more than 30 victims, but only 17 cases were brought to a grand jury. A number of other people have civil judgments outstanding against Shellhouse.
Several victims reported that Shellhouse continually dodged their calls and visits. Bishop said he even volunteered in Shellhouse’s garage for months to speed up the process.
“I was helping him on a daily basis, just hoping that eventually we’d get to mine,” he said. Bishop said he did finally get his car back, in worse condition than when he dropped it off, and now has it at a restoration shop.
“I’m very happy with the outcome today,” Bishop said. “But a real professional would have never treated people the way Shellhouse did.”