Pamela Harris thought she was leaving her son’s dream car in good hands when she dropped off the Audi TT for engine repairs last December at European Motorsports and Imports in Goose Creek.
Shop owner Chris Felber told her the 2002 roadster would be good as new in a couple weeks, Harris said. But when six months passed with nothing but excuses, Harris said she demanded he give the car back.
“He returned the car on a wrecker and it was in pieces. Come to find out, he’d pulled the engine out and done nothing to the car,” she said. “You should have seen the devastation on my face. I couldn’t believe it. All I could do was cry.”
Harris said Felber promised in May to return the $2,000 she had paid, but she doesn’t expect to ever see that money. Not after Felber was hauled into jail last week, accused of bilking others out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Berkeley County investigators charged Felber with writing multiple bad checks, including one for $225,000, according to sheriff’s office spokesman Dan Moon. The investigation remains open and more charges are possible, he said.
The 23-year-old Ridgeville man remained in the county jail late Friday with his bail set at $230,000.
Felber opened the shop, which tuned up high-end Ferraris, Mercedes and other luxury or exotic cars, in 2008. The operation was something of a family affair. His father, Dietmar Felber, left his partnership at another auto shop to help with the operation, and his mother, Pam, handled administrative tasks.
EMI’s website shows a photo of the Felber men posing in front of a Ferrari, a Rolls-Royce, a Mercedes-Benz and a Lamborghini. The shop boasted of having “technical gurus” with more than three decades of experience working on every European specialty car manufactured in the past 100 years.
The shop’s motto was: “Driven to be the best.”
Gerhard Jung of Summerville thought it sounded like a winning operation when he let Felber move into his building at 144 Howe Hall Road to build the business. The plan, Jung said, was for Felber to eventually buy him out.
Jung said he invested in equipment and a tow truck to help the shop along. After all, these were fellow Germans whom he had known for years, he said.
Jung said the family lived in a spacious home and drove late-model luxury cars. He figured Felber was a safe bet.
“I never in my life had seen a DeLorean,” Jung said, referring to the iconic 1980s sports car featured in the “Back to the Future” movie trilogy. “Sure enough, this son of a gun had two of them sitting there. He seemed to be rolling in the money.”
But Felber eventually stopped paying rent, Jung said, and their relationship frayed. Jung said he eventually got some money back, but he is still out $7,600 in rent after two checks Felber wrote him bounced. Jung filed a police report about those checks last month.
The same day, a 50-year-old Summerville man reported that Felber had stiffed him with two bad checks worth $105,000, according to a police report.
Since that time, a 47-year-old North Charleston man reported to deputies that Felber wrote him a bad check for $24,500, according to an incident report.
Still another man, a 45-year-old Goose Creek resident, told deputies that Felber wrote him a $225,000 check after damaging the man’s Lamborghini while working on it. But when the man went to cash the check, he learned the funds weren’t there to cover it, an incident report stated.
The two charges Felber faces stem from the Lamborghini owner’s complaint and Jung’s report, Moon said. The other two cases remain under investigation, he said.
The Better Business Bureau also has downgraded European Motorsports’ rating to an “F.”
Jung, 69, said he evicted Felber in June, but the shop had cleared out by then. Jung said the building is missing some equipment and a tow truck, a loss he puts at more than $100,000, and he has hired an attorney to pursue civil action.
“If you and I get in a business deal, and the business fails, that is one thing,” he said. “But these were friends. That is what hurts.”
Attempts to reach Felber’s parents were unsuccessful last week. The phone number at their Ridgeville home had been changed to unlisted, and the pair did not respond to messages sent to their Facebook accounts.
A new shop has since moved into Jung’s building, and it’s not affiliated with Felber or EMI. The new owner declined to speak with a reporter Friday, saying he had a family matter to attend to.
Harris, whose son’s Audi came back in pieces, said the episode proved to be a painful learning experience for her family. Her son, an airman who was stationed overseas when his dream car was in the shop, arrived home on leave and found it undrivable, she said.
While reassembling “the puzzle,” her son found that a couple parts were missing and another had been repaired when they paid to have it replaced, Harris said. Fixing the mess will likely cost her son double what she lost on her initial investment, she said.
Harris has filed a complaint against Felber in small claims court and said she is interested in seeking criminal charges as well. In the meantime, she offered this advice to folks considering having Felber repair their rides:
“If they ever run in to him, just run, go the other way as quickly as possible.”
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556.