Dealership Techs Caught Tampering With Customer’s Brakes, Police Say

The techs allegedly used a screwdriver and a hammer to separate the brake pads.

byNico DeMattia|
Dealership Techs Caught Tampering With Customer’s Brakes, Police Say
Photo | by Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images.

On August 10, Pennsylvania state police held a press conference to announce that two mechanics from the #1 Cochran Hyundai dealership, in Monroeville, Pennsylvania were charged with two separate crimes for tampering with a customers brake pads. WTAE-TV Pittsburgh reported that two mechanics, Aaron Eager and Jacob Ciarkowski, allegedly damaged the customer's brake pads intentionally with a screwdriver, after the customer brought their car in for inspection.

"At the time of the inspection, the mechanic of the garage relayed that the car didn't pass inspection due to a brake pad separation." said Pennsylvania state trooper Rocco Gagliardi during the press conference.

When the customer first brought their car in for the initial inspection, back in June, the mechanic said that the driver's side rear brake pad was separated and needed to be replaced. The customer felt that something was a bit off with the mechanic's diagnosis, feeling that they knew their car pretty well, so they took it for a second opinion. The second mechanic told the customer that the car was fine and should pass inspection without a problem. After that, the customer went back to #1 Cochran for another inspection and the mechanic told them that the passenger side rear brake pad was separated.

"So at that point, our victim knew something was totally incorrect," Gagliardi said.

The customer then called the state police, whose vehicle fraud investigation unit went to the dealership and started poking around. Interestingly, according to Gagliardi's statement, the two mechanics involved both confessed to intentionally tampering with the brake pads by jamming a flathead screwdriver into them to cause the separation.

"Both mechanics did relay that they did put the screwdriver in there and one even actually used a hammer to cause even further separation," Gagliardi said.

At the moment, it's unclear exactly what sort of separation Gagliardi is talking about. It's possible that the mechanics used a flathead and hammer to separate the friction material from its backing plate, which would then become dangerous and require replacing. Though, at the moment, further specifics of the damage are unclear.

However, despite the fact that the mechanics allegedly confessed to state police, the dealership released a statement to Pittsburgh's Action News 4 to defend both the mechanics and itself:

First, #1 Cochran as a company has not been cited for anything. Second, the facts expressed at the press conference regarding the two team members who were cited are not accurate, and the truth will come to light. Multiple service personnel inspected the brake pads and all agreed that they did not pass inspection. It is our assessment that no one at #1 Cochran forcefully separated the pads or in any way damaged them. That is not how we conduct business, that is not who we are - and there would have been no benefit whatsoever to the technicians to operate that way.

Currently, though, both mechanics are being charged with criminal mischief and unlawful activity. It's also important to note that both mechanics claimed to have tampered with the brake pads on their own accord, so charges aren't being brought on the dealership itself.

The investigation is still ongoing, so there may be more details to come. But if #1 Cochran is your Hyundai dealer, or where you get your car's state inspection, it's worth keeping your eye on this investigation.

"Right now, the investigation will stay open, concluding the disposition of these charges," Gagliardi said. "If anyone else out there in the public has a concern or an issue with that same garage and gives us a call, we can reopen that, start a new case, or look further into the dealership itself."