Counterfeit Toolboxes Sold to Contractors

A toolbox scam has landed a Savannah man in hot water with the US military. At least six government contractors were duped by what police describe as a crooked salesman. The contractors thought they were buying brand-name, high-quality toolboxes at bargain prices. Turns out, police say the toolboxes were counterfeit.

Cornwell is one of the leading brands in tools, so Paul Starck bought one of their toolboxes at a bargain price of $1,400.

"Figured for the Cornwell name, might as well get it," he said.

Starck is an independent contractor working on aircraft at Hunter Army Airfield. He says the man who sold him the toolbox was a licensed Cornwell distributor named Lance Ezell. He bought tools from Ezell on post before, so he trusted him.

"I thought I bought a Cornwell box from a Cornwell dealer," Starck said. "I thought I was getting Cornwell quality."

Turns out he didn't. It took one small dent in the toolbox drawer to expose a huge scam. Hoping his warranty would cover the damage, Starck called Cornwell. "They asked for the key number. They said, 'Sorry sir, you don't have a Cornwell toolbox,'" said Starck. "He just bought a bunch of old toolboxes and put Cornwell on them and called them good."

"He had a good little scam going," said fellow contractor Brian Lamkin. "I mean, he has the company name on his truck. You think you could trust that."

Lemkin bought his toolbox from Lance Ezell too. "I don't have the kind of money to throw away, $2,200. I don't even have a warranty on it."

Starck, Lemkin and four others filed complaints with military police. While detectives investigated Ezelll, the guys called Cornwell tools to report their dealer.

"They told us they knew about it but didn't care," said Starck. "They said go after the dealer."

Cornwell officials tell us they do care and have severed ties with Ezell. The guys hope Ezell gets put in jail and Cornwell delivers on the toolboxes they thought they paid for.

"You can't sell something that is one thing and not give it to them," said Starck.

"I'd like to see him not sell tools any more, lose his business, whatever we can do," said Lemkin.

Lance Ezell was charged with criminal trespass and trafficking counterfeit goods, and is now in the process of being banned from Hunter Army Airfield. He could not be reached for comment.

Officials with the tool company tell us they severed ties with Ezell in May because of this situation and are doing some further investigating. But they didn't realize the extent of the problem until we spoke to them.

Reported by: Don Logana, dlogana@wtoc.com