JOHNSON COUNTY — Johnson County prosecutors filed criminal charges this week following a WRTV Investigation into a Whiteland hot rod restoration shop.
John E. Bragg is charged with fraud, a felony, and theft, a misdemeanor, according to a probable cause affidavit filed on October 5.
The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office has been investigating complaints against JB Bugs Trick Truck N Rod in Whiteland.
Customers say they paid the hot rod restoration shop but allege the business did not do the work promised.
Court records allege Bragg paid his landlord a bad check for $16,500 for rent for the months of April, May and June 2022.
"The bank returned it because there had been a stop payment order placed on the check and it was not cashable," court documents read.
Prosecutors also allege a customer, Bryan Ferry, paid Bragg a $7,500 down payment in May 2021 to restore a 1971 VW camper van.
Bragg sent Ferry text messages over the course of the year indicating he was working on the vehicle, court documents read.
However, on June 22, 2022, Ferry said Bragg didn't show up to a meeting at the shop, and instead found an eviction notice on the building.
Ferry located his van, but said none of the work Bragg told him had been done, and it was in "worse shape than when it had been taken in May of 2021."
Ferry also told the sheriff's office he noticed additional damage to the van.
On October 7, a Johnson County judge issued a warrant for Bragg's arrest.
WRTV Investigates stopped by the shop in July and found unfinished cars sitting outside and cars and office equipment inside.
But the door was locked, and no one was inside.
Posted on the door was a letter dated June 17 stating the shop is in breach of its commercial lease agreement.
Customers say they haven’t been able to get in touch with the business for more than a month, including Diane Kuhn of Fairland.
Kuhn bought a bright yellow 1971 Volkswagen Super Beetle convertible from a friend.
“It’s my bucket list car,” said Kuhn.
Kuhn wanted her vehicle restored and took it to a Morristown shop, but part way through the restoration process, the shop was bought out by JB Bugs Trick Truck N Rod.
Kuhn said a man named “JB Goode” contacted her and identified himself as the owner of the shop.
“My first contact with JB was July 2021 when he called me,” said Kuhn. “We talked about what I wanted done with the car and he said, 'We can do all the work you're wanting done on your car between $12-$15,000.' I told him to go ahead.”
Kuhn said JB told her they required half the money down as a deposit.
Records show Kuhn paid the shop $10,500.
“We decided to go ahead, that way it was less to come up with later,” said Kuhn.
Kuhn said JB took in her vehicle for restoration in July 2021.
“I left him alone until October,” said Kuhn.
Kuhn said JB told her the vehicle was scheduled to be worked on.
“That was always his excuse — he said, ‘it's on the books, it's on the books, it's on the books,’” said Kuhn.
In a bizarre turn of events, Kuhn said JB took her vehicle to another shop in Chattanooga, Tennessee where it still remains.
"I want my car back,” said Kuhn. “I want it done the way I wanted it done and I want to be able to drive it.”
Kuhn has been waiting for more than a year for her dream car to be finished.
“This has been the worst experience and most drawn-out thing I've ever been involved in,” said Kuhn.
Kuhn contacted the Indiana Attorney General’s office as well as the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office.
The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office told WRTV in August it has received 30 complaints about JB Bugs Trick Truck N Rod.
Darci Bell of Bedford bought a 1965 Volkswagen bus with her husband.
Records show she paid JB Bugs Trick Truck N Rod $14,000, which was about half of the total cost of the restoration.
“He did not do anything,” said Bell. “We can’t even get ahold of JB.”
Bell said JB also took her vehicle to the Chattanooga shop without her knowledge.
“We just happened to see it when they posted pictures. We saw it in the background,” said Bell. “We were a little aggravated."
Darci Bell grew frustrated with the delays.
“We just kept getting the runaround,” said Bell. “It was just excuse after excuse.”
So, they traveled to Chattanooga to take home their van, and Bell claims it’s in even worse shape now.
She has not received a refund.
“It’s sickening,” said Bell.
WRTV Investigates did some checking and found JB Goode’s name is actually John Edmond Bragg.
Records show he was convicted of organized fraud in Walton County, Florida in December 2020 and is serving five years of probation.
He defrauded his Florida victim of more than $40,000 after telling her he was an attorney retiring due to brain cancer, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.
He sent his victim a selfie claiming to be at the hospital, the arrest warrant read.
WRTV Investigates checked Indiana court records and found John Bragg was convicted of theft in Johnson County in 2007, and in 2009, convicted of fraud and bigamy in Hancock County.
Records show Melanie Goode registered JB Bugs Trick Truck N Rod with the Indiana Secretary of State’s office in January 2021.
JB Bugs Trick Truck N Rod of Indy is the assumed business name for an entity named Palm Principles, LLC, for which Melanie Goode is listed as the registered agent.
JB Goode and John Bragg are not listed on any of the documents, but customers and court records allege Melanie Goode is JB Goode’s significant other.
The business is also facing two civil lawsuits, both filed in June.
A Kokomo customer is seeking $1,800, saying the shop took his money and didn’t finish the work.
The landlord who owns the building where JB Bugs Trick Truck N Rod occupies space also filed a lawsuit alleging JB Goode used a false name and that the business breached its lease agreement.
WRTV Investigates called every phone number and emailed every email address we could find for Melanie Goode and JB Goode, also known as John Bragg.
We also stopped by the Whiteland shop and their Greenwood home, but we’ve been unable to reach them.
As for Diane Kuhn of Whiteland, she admits she didn’t do her due diligence.
“Not meeting JB in person is the biggest one,” said Kuhn.
Kuhn said not only did she give JB more than half of the money upfront, but she also didn’t have a written contract with the shop.
“It sounds like a lot of people did not have contracts with him,” said Kuhn. “Everything was done via cellphone, text message or FB messenger."
Kuhn said her Beetle remains in Tennessee where JB’s former coworker is working on finishing it.
She said she’s hopeful she will get her vehicle back soon and will drive down south to get it, if necessary.
“I will pull it back in pieces,” said Kuhn. “I don’t think I’ll have to do that, but if I do, I do.”
The Indiana Attorney General’s office says it is processing 11 complaints against JB Bugs Trick Truck N Rod received between June 21 and July 18.
WRTV Investigates also reached out to the prosecutor’s office in Florida.
"The Walton County State Attorney's Office is reviewing the information and will forward it to the department of probation and parole for a determination of whether a violation of (the) defendant's probation has been committed,” said Joshua Mitchell, Walton County Chief for Office of State Attorney.
Better Business Tips for Hiring a Contractor
- Research the business name and owner’s name
- Check reviews, court records for criminal and civil cases, and the BBB for complaints
- If nothing comes up in a Google search, ask more questions
- Ask for multiple quotes. You should always shop around and get at least three quotes from different businesses. Make sure all bids consider the same set of criteria.
- Get it in writing. Always get estimates in writing and never let any work begin without a written and signed contract. Do not be pressured into signing an agreement before you are ready and make sure you read and understand everything before signing.
- Ask for references. Ask the contractor for a list of recent local references you may contact. Ask the references about the services performed and their overall experience with the contractor and the quality of the work.
- Arrange a payment schedule. Never pay in full up front. Stagger your payments so your final payment is not due until the work is complete and you have fully inspected it. Do not pay cash; make sure your check is written to a company, not an individual, or that you use a credit card. Paying with a credit card will provide some recourse should the job not be completed as stated in the contract.
- Get a receipt. Request a receipt marked “Paid in Full” when the job is completed and your final payment made.
- Keep your contract. Hold on to your contract for future reference or if any questions arise after the work is complete.