Counterfeit Toolboxes, Possibly Tools, Investigated

First it was toolboxes, and now contractors say their tools may be counterfeit too. It's the latest twist in a story which started on Hunter Army Airfield and has spread to other contractors from the Georgia ports to the handyman down the street.

The man accused of selling counterfeit toolboxes is a former Cornwell Tools distributor named Lance Ezell. We had so many complaints about him and no one seemed to be able to reach him, so we decided to go find him ourselves.

Cornwell tools officials know Ezell well and local independent contractors wish they didn't. Paul Starck and Brian Lemkin say they trusted Ezell, who sold tools and toolboxes on Hunter Army Airfield every Tuesday.

"I never had any problems with him before, bought some tools from him, so on and so forth," said Starck.

"First he was acting like our buddy, like he was giving us deals," said Lemkin.

Then they realized Lance Ezell sold them counterfeit toolboxes. "I got ripped off," said Lemkin.

Starck told us it was "not the tools, just the toolbox that holds all the tools I use to work on military aircraft."

But now, military police are investigating whether or not the tools sold to contractors all over the region by Ezell were also phonies.

So we went straight to Ezell, paying him a visit at his home on Wilmington Island. His wife wouldn't answer the door, so we told her to have him call us so we could find out his side of the story.

He didn't call, but we did get his cell phone number. He told us we were banned from his property and had no comment on anything else.

He hasn't returned the calls of the people he sold those toolboxes to either.

"He was always acting like our buddy, giving us what we need," said Lemkin. "I guess he was just covering for himself and we were getting ripped off."

Military police are still investigating the situation, building a case against Ezell. But there's a big problem for contractors. Police may have to confiscate as evidence the toolboxes the contractors are using for their jobs, leaving them with no tools to do their work.

Reported by: Don Logana, dlogana@wtoc.com