Some Bay Area People Fall For Locksmith ScamScam In New York Could Be Connected
7 ON YOUR SIDE
Aug. 22, 2007 - KGO - Investigators suspect there may be a link between a Bay Area locksmith and a possible scam that stretches from here to New York. It's a story 7 On Your Side has been investigating for months, and whether there's a connection or not.
"I think he took advantage of an old lady. Whether he meant it or not, I don't know," said Rose Golobic from San Bruno.
Rose Golobic of San Bruno says a locksmith charged her $1,500 dollars to change her lock. She knows now she paid 15 times the going rate.
She says an unlicensed locksmith drove her to the bank so she could pay him.
"I was so upset. I probably shouldn't have gone with him, but I did it. and drew up $1, 500 dollars. Lucky I had it," said Rose Golobic of San Bruno.
It's her story that lead to the arrest of 29-year old Moshe Mizrachi. He faces trial next month on elderly abuse and identity theft charges in San Mateo County.
He's suspected of a scam similar to the one Dependable Locksmith is accused of running out of New York. The Better Business Bureau says the company quotes one rate over the phone, then charges something much higher.
That's what Geraldine Moore of San Francisco says happened to her.
"He just said it would be $100 dollars. As it turned out it was $500 dollars," said Geraldine Moore of San Francisco.
She says the locksmith identified himself as Idan Finkelstein and asked Geraldine to pay with a personal check made out to him. Finkelstein is the man identified at Moshe Mizrachi's arraignment as the locksmith's partner. Finkelstein has not been charged with any crime, and they are both are part of USA A-1 Locksmith.
Locksmiths and at least one investigator we talked to say USA A-1 Locksmith here in the Bay Area and dependable in New York may somehow be tied together.
Our sister station in New York decided to pay Dependable a visit.
"Hi, how are you? We're from Channel 7. Do you work here?" Said the reporter.
"No," said the unidentified person.
"No? That's very interesting. You just wondering around here? We'd like to talk to someone. You know the Better Business Bureau has called you very disreputable. Misleading," said the reporter.
"Excuse me. This is private property. You guys have to get off the property," said the second unidentified person.
"Come on. There you go," said the first unidentified person.
"Let me ask you. The Better Business Bureau says this is a particularly," said the reporter.
"No comment," said the second unidentified person.
There are numerous similarities between Dependable and USA A-1 Locksmith. Investigators say many involved with Dependable are from Israel. Part of USA A-1's Web site is coded in Hebrew.
"That prompted me to do some more searching. Looking at the domain name, USA A-1 Locksmith, found out the site is hosted out of Israel," said Matt Sawicki, a Web developer.
Both companies use multiple names and phone numbers. The Better Business Bureau says Dependable goes by at least 50 other names including A-1 Locksmith Service.
USA A-1 also goes by several names including A-1 San Bruno Locksmith, and the Better Business Bureau says both also target people locked out of their cars and homes.
"The locksmith comes out. You're locked out of your car in the middle of the night. You're locked out of your house. There's not much you can do. You're going to pay the price," said Gene O'Neil from the Better Business Bureau.
Investigators say dependable spread out from New York to such cities as Phoenix, Chicago, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Colorado Springs, and the Bay Area.
It's believed all calls are routed to a calling center in New York.
USA A-1 Locksmith is set up throughout the Bay Area and all calls were forwarded to this call center in San Francisco before it was abandoned.
ABC7 reported back in March that according to a former employee that company has plans to expand nationwide. The Better Business Bureau says dependable using the name superb solutions was in the bay area less than a year ago.
"We had a few complaints on them and then they're gone," said O'Neil.
But one investigator suspects USA A-1 Locksmith is an offshoot of dependable.
"I have some information although unconfirmed that some of these companies, the spin offs, were previous employees of SOS or Dependable out of New York," said Kent Paluga from the Texas Department of Public Safety.
One major difference, USA A-1 Locksmith is accused of bilking its customers for a lot more money; sometimes $500 dollars, sometimes even thousands of dollars.
"I think it was very bad for me to lose that amount of money because I got locked out of my house," said Moore.
Although victims of USA A-1 Locksmith have come forward in San Francisco, Santa Clara, Alameda and Sacramento counties, so far only San Mateo county has pressed charges.
Montrose, New York