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CALIFORNIA | SOUTHLAND FOCUS

Authorities Shutter Brake Depot Chain

July 23, 1999|Robin Fields

State regulators moved to shut down 17 Brake Depot shops in Southern California, accusing the San Diego-based repair chain of a bait-and-switch scheme to defraud customers. An undercover sting by the California Bureau of Auto Repair revealed a pattern in which Brake Depot lured in customers by advertising a $99.98 friction reline, a common brake repair, then sold them unnecessary services costing hundreds of dollars more, regulators said. The state attorney general's office has filed an action to revoke auto-repair licenses at 15 company-owned stores in San Diego County and two in Orange County. Based on the same investigation, authorities filed a criminal complaint in San Diego against Brake Depot Inc. President Patrick Walby and his brother, Chief Financial Officer Philip Walby. They were charged with misleading advertising, theft and violating a 1996 civil court order that settled similar allegations by the state. Brake Depot executives said they had opened an internal inquiry to address state regulators' findings, but defended the company's record.

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