25 Investigates: Botched insurance job

When Lidiya Romanchuk picked up her car from a Malden auto body shop, she immediately noticed something odd. Her aluminum grill had been replaced with a black one and it did not match the trim on her 2017 Audi A6. Then, she noticed something else. One of her four matching Pirelli tires had been replaced with a different brand. Lidiya said all her tires appeared in great condition when she brought the car in.

Romanchuk is a Ukrainian born women’s fashion designer. During an interview at her Revere home, she told 25 Investigates reporter Ted Daniel, “I work very hard to have my car and I polish my tires every week. I can spot my front tire is not my tire.’” Her grill and tire weren’t the only problems.

It all started in August, when Romanchuk rear ended a car while driving in Boston. A video she took shows minor damage to her grill and a dent in the bumper from the fender bender. A friend recommended Auto Body Squad based on the shop’s location. She reported the crash to her insurance company, Progressive, and agreed to pay her $750 deductible.

Progressive, initially estimated it would cost $1,454.66 to fix the car but Auto Body Squad of Malden reported finding more damage and the cost of the repairs jumped to $6,863.64. Auto Body Squad said the front headlights needed to be replaced at a cost of more than $3000.

Romanchuk had her car inspected by a Progressive claims adjustor at the dealer she bought it from after it left Auto Body Squad. In a video she recorded, the adjustor is seen pointing out items Progressive paid for that Auto Body Squad never replaced including the headlights. He is heard saying, “Right there is two thousand dollars in insurance fraud that I just proved.”

An email Progressive sent the body shop reads, “there are clearly several high dollar parts which were paid for by Progressive to be replaced. This did not happen. Additionally, the wrong grille was replaced on the front of her car and one of her Pirelli tires was inexplicably swapped out with a Continental.”

Fabio Gomes owns Auto Body Squad. He told 25 Investigates Romanchuk asked that her car be finished early for a trip and they were not able to complete all the work. When 25 Investigates asked to see the headlights Progressive paid for, Gomes said he had returned them to the dealer.

“They cannot say that’s fraud because the car was incomplete. You know, okay, that is my point. That’s where I’m coming from,” Gomes said.

“I stand behind my work. I’ll do whatever it takes. Like I said, it’s not the money,” Auto Body Squad’s manager Brian Harris explained.

Harris said a black grill is associated with the car’s vehicle identification number but an Audi tech who also accessed the VIN disputes that. As for the tire, Harris said one of the Pirelli’s was leaking and he did Romanchuk a, “favor” by replacing it at no charge.

25 Investigates asked the shop to provide texts or any documentation to show Romanchuk they were still working on the car. None has been provided.

Emails reviewed by 25 Investigates show Progressive is trying to help Romanchuk resolve the problem but we found the insurance company is not required to by law.

The reason: Auto Body Squad of Malden is not on Progressive’s list of recommended or approved repair shops.

Anthony DiPaolo, Executive Director Insurance Fraud Bureau of Massachusetts said auto insurance companies do not have to intervene on behalf of customers if the shop is not in the insurer’s network.

“If you’re using what the insurance company is recommending, then if there’s a problem with the repair going on, then the insurance company would step in and act on your behalf. It takes the weight off the consumer,” DiPaolo said.

DiPaolo said most body shops play by rules but he cautions insurance fraud can come in many different forms including jacked up prices, unnecessary repairs, use of inferior parts and enhanced damage.

Romanchuk has filed a complaint with the Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General. The Office confirmed they are investigating her complaint and one other unrelated one involving Auto Body Squad. A spokesperson was unable to comment further because the investigations are still active.

25 Investigates found 147 complaints filed with the Attorney General since 2018 that mention, “auto body” or “collision repair”. The AG logs more automobile related complaints than any other category.

Auto Body Squad’s manager Brain Harris told 25 Investigates he would refund Romanchuk the money for the work that was not completed. Romanchuk is still waiting for a check.

“I am sweet personality and happy and bubbly but I’m Ukrainian and unstoppable lady. That’s it. You’ve done me wrong for no reason I chose you for my baby, my car and you’ve done me wrong,” she said.

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