Alleged “dent scammer” charged with targeting yet another driver — in Lincoln Park this time

A North Center man who was charged last month with ripping off senior citizens with an auto dent repair scam caused more than $3,000 damage to a 72-year-old driver’s vehicle in a similar scheme last December, prosecutors said this week.

Gino Johns, 27, is now charged with felony criminal damage to property in the new case.

According to prosecutors and a CPD report, Johns and an accomplice pulled up next to a 72-year-old man as he parked in the 1600 block of North LaSalle on December 1 and told him they could repair a dent on his car at a discount.

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

When the alleged victim told them his vehicle wasn’t damaged, they got out of their truck, and he heard a “thump” sound, prosecutors said. He got out and saw a small dent on the front passenger side that hadn’t been there before.

Johns began smearing a paste on the dent to “repair” it, but the damage only got worse, and the victim pulled out his phone to call police.

Both of the alleged scam artists fled in the truck they pulled up in.

Chicago police detectives realized the scam, the alleged perpetrators and the truck were similar to circumstances in another incident reported a few days earlier in Lakeview, Assistant State’s Attorney Franka D’Antignac said.

Investigators found surveillance video of the reported scam on LaSalle and determined that the victim’s car was not damaged before the men “worked” on it, but had visible damage after they were done, D’Antignac alleged. The victim later identified Johns as one of the offenders in a photo line-up, she said.

A U.S. Marshals task force arrested Johns at his home this week. Judge Mary Marubio, noting that the alleged incident took place before Johns was arrested in February, released him on his own recognizance.

Dent repair scam

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.

In the Lakeview incident that reportedly helped detectives identify Johns, two victims, ages 82 and 65, were driving in the 3200 block of North Lincoln around 12:50 p.m. on November 27 when he 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.

Prosecutors charged Johns in February 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 last month. 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 news@cwbchicago.com