NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A judge ordered a locksmith company out of Tennessee and ordered it to pay a hefty fine for repeatedly breaking the law on Tuesday. NewsChannel 5 Investigates exposed the questionable business practices of Dependable Locks and its employees.
Consumer investigator Jennifer Kraus showed us how the company responded to the charges against it.
Dependable Locks was accused of repeatedly violating the law.
"Dependable Locks did business in Tennessee with complete disregard for the Tennessee laws governing locksmiths," said State attorney Laura Betty to the judge.
No one from the locksmith company bothered to show up for the hearing to answer the charges.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates first exposed the company last summer after we went undercover and showed how Dependable Locks quoted one price for services and then tried to charge customers significantly more.
Nashville resident Kevin Rittenberry testified during the hearing how the same thing happened to him. He said he first was told opening his locked car door would be $39.
"He [the Dependable Locks employee who got his car open] turned around and said, '$125.' I'm like, 'No, no, no. That's not right,'" said Rittenberry.
The state also said neither Dependable Locks nor its employees are registered as licensed locksmiths with the state. Other violations included locksmiths driving unmarked cars and employees failing to carry any sort of company identification or license, just like we found in our investigation.
Administrative law judge Steve Darnell presided over the hearing.
"It appears that Dependable Locks is engaging not just in Tennessee but across the nation a series of fraudulent acts, and I believe the maximum fine of $5,000 per violation is appropriate," said Darnell.
With 15 violations, the judge fined Dependable Locks $75,000 and ordered the company to stop doing business in Tennessee.
"I wanted somebody to stop these people because they're out there gouging people all across the nation. It's something that needs to be done," said Rittenberry.
The hearing came nearly two years after Rittenberry's run-in with Dependable Locks. The state said the case took longer to prosecute because the company is based out-of-state.
Tennessee investigators could not find some of the company's associates, and because Dependable Locks operated in the mid-state under a variety of different names.
Back in November, the two owners of Dependable Locks were arrested at the Florida headquarters of the company by federal agents. The two are awaiting trial on money laundering, wire and mail fraud charges. They're also accused of instructing employees to overcharge and deceive customers.