Tipton County woman says classic car restoration project turned into classic scam

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COVINGTON, Tenn. -- Sandy Cook says it's always been her dream to have the 1949 Chevy Suburban sitting in her yard restored.

Its color resembles an Army green, with a good bit of rust.  Cook says she likes it that way.

She's owned it for more than 20 years, so she says she was thrilled when she found Sean Hilty of Hilty Customs and Auto Repair in Memphis to do the job.

"It was going to have all new undersides like motors and transmissions, but the top was going to remain the same."

That was in early 2016. WREG found Hilty boasted about the project on Facebook.

However, Cook says after months of waiting, and paying Hilty $24,000, the job was never finished.

"He didn't do anything and every time I'd go by he'd give me this grand story about either somebody died or somebody was in the hospital, or he had a zit, you know it was just all the oddest things!"

Cook got her SUV back, and then in March of 2017, she sued Hilty in Tipton County General Sessions Court.

She got won a default judgment when he didn't show up. However, Cook hasn't been able to collect the money.

"I don't want to gouge him, I just want it to be fair, but I want my money back," Cook said.

WREG went to Hilty's last known business address; the people inside said he'd been evicted. Court records show previous evictions at another business location, along with a residential address.

News Channel 3 also left a message for Hilty, and he responded by leaving a voicemail message: "...This is Sean Hilty, you said to call you. Just letting you know, I haven't been in business for over two months."

Hilty said he's no longer a mechanic and blamed his former co-workers for some of the problems.

He continued during the message, "They went behind my back to get me evicted, that's why there's probably a few complaints."

When we asked directly about Cook and the Suburban via Facebook message; Hilty said, "The idiots that put me out of business is what happened. They stole everything."

WREG found complaints and court action, including judgments, dating back years on Hilty.

The Better Business Bureau revoked his accreditation for failure to respond to complaints.

"That $24,000 cost me another additional $8,000 in taxes. Eight, I mean, I hit the bottom, I couldn't believe it."

Cook, who dipped into her 401k to pay Hilty, says she wants her money back, but more than that, she wants to warn others.

"I'm not the only victim in his little scams."

So what options do you people have to recoup money in a situation like this?

There is a subpoena that plaintiffs can file to require defendants to show up to court with their financial records. Sometimes wage garnishment and asset seizures are also options.

All of the above-mentioned options require going back to court, but there are ways to get free legal help in Memphis.

There is a free clinic every Thursday at 1:30 p.m. at the courthouse. There's also a clinic every second Saturday of the month.

Here's more information on ways to get money back after winning in court.