Prosecutors: North Center man scammed seniors with “dent repair” scheme

The dent repair scam is one of the most prolific schemes in Chicago. But the scammers, who sometimes pocket thousands of dollars for phony dent repairs, are rarely caught.

But prosecutors say cops caught one last week in North Center and charges have been filed.

Here’s how CWB explained the scam in 2018:

You’re out minding your own business, maybe leaving a grocery store or the gym, when a vehicle pulls up real close to yours. Then, someone quickly jumps out of the other car and starts buffing on your car without even asking.

Gino Johns (inset) and an example of the green slime typically used by dent repair scammers. | CPD; Provided

Quickly, another occupant of the car walks up and strikes up a conversation. They will almost always try to draw a connection by asking if you remember them from the car dealership (they see the dealer name on your license plate frame or a dealer logo on the back of your car).

Through it all, they don’t give you a chance to say “no” to anything. And they will insist on being paid for their unsolicited repairs.

Long story short: The men won’t be doing any real repairs to your car. The most they will do is spread something they’ll call ”dent filler” on your car and tell you to leave it on for 48 hours. The “filler” is nothing but ordinary body wax. And you’ll never hear from them again about the “follow-up appointment.”

In fact, the odds are pretty good that the scammers will cause more damage to your car than you had before they arrived.

Which brings us to the arrest cops made last week.

Prosecutors have charged Gino Johns, 27, of North Center with stealing more than $12,000 from two senior citizens with the dent repair scam.

The alleged victims, ages 82 and 65, were driving in the 3200 block of North Lincoln around 12:50 p.m. on November 27 when Johns caught their attention in traffic and identified himself as a car dealership employee, prosecutors said.

He directed them into a nearby parking lot, and an unknown co-offender began smearing green paste on their car’s front quarter panel, according to the allegations. He told them to leave the paste on for a day and then demanded $6,500 as payment, prosecutors said.

Johns then allegedly followed the victims to a bank where the 65-year-old withdrew the money and gave it to him. Later, Johns called the victims and asked to meet again, prosecutors said.

When they met, Johns allegedly demanded another $6,000. They gave it to him — and then wrote down his license plate number, which police traced to Johns, according to the state.

Cops arrested Johns last week after the older victim identified him as the scammer who called himself “George,” did most of the talking, and took their money. The younger victim allegedly identified Johns in a photo line-up after he was arrested.

Prosecutors said the scammers actually caused over $1,300 in damages to the victims’ car.

Johns’ private defense attorney said he is the father of three and he works as an independent contractor in construction.

Prosecutors charged Johns with felony theft by deception from a senior citizen and aggravated battery of a police officer. He has a 2012 conviction for burglary.

“The allegation is that you were preying on two individuals with delicate sensibilities based on their age,” Judge Arthur Willis said during Johns’ bond hearing. He then set bail at $5,000 and ordered Johns to go onto electronic monitoring if he can post a $500 deposit bond.

“This is a non-violent offense as reprehensible as it may appear,” Willis said.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is