Gerardo said he was visiting family in Mexico when he got the first bizarre phone call. “I was in shock,” he said. He thought the first two calls were a “prank.”
“First he said, ‘You don’t know who you’re dealing with. We’re calling to get Brittany’s car out.”
Gerardo is a mechanic who works on cars. “We do all types of repairs,” he said. Some months ago, Brittany’s car, a Ford Five Hundred, was dropped off at his shop. The young woman wrote her name and phone number on a piece of paper and left that note and the keys and her car. Gerardo said he checked the car, which “was definitely shot.”
Gerardo phoned and gave Brittany three different options on fixing her car: try to repair that tranny, buy a new transmission through a dealer, or find a used/repaired transmission. But, “She said she didn’t have the money for it.”
Time went by and Gerardo said he spoke by phone with Brittany and left messages, but her car remained. “It sat for a long time, about two months.”
Cars that are left on lots accumulate “storage fees,” he said, and eventually abandoned cars are sold. “Her car was lien-saled,” Gerardo said.
Brittany reportedly was upset about the cost of recovering her car from a mechanic who didn’t even fix it. And she said so, later, when she was arrested by San Diego County sheriff’s detective Jonathan Hintz, for extortion.
Favors for friends
John said he woke up with a knife at his throat. Sometimes he did work cleaning and detailing autos at a used-car place in Oceanside, and they let him sleep in their cars at night, he said. That Monday morning, he was asleep in the backseat of a car when he awoke with a blade pressed on his neck. It was early, “still dark,” and there was a man’s face close to his own. “He was actually spitting on me,” John remembered.
The angry man was yelling into John’s cell phone, which the man held while he leaned into just-awakened John, who said, “By this time, I seen the knife.” John understood that the angry man was yelling into his cell phone at a man he knew named Gerardo. “He wanted money and Brittany’s car.”
Some months ago, John believed he was doing a favor for his friend Brittany when he drove her car — which was stuck in gear — to a repair place. John knew that Brittany’s car was never worked on and it sat at the repair place, and then somebody wanted $200 to release the car back to Brittany.
John said he was marched down the railroad tracks in Oceanside at knifepoint. And then he was held at knifepoint in somebody’s trailer for two hours. John said he was eventually told he could leave, after somebody paid money and Brittany got her car back. That was August 20, 2012.
John told his story in court seven weeks later. An attorney suggested that John was part of a scam. She questioned his credibility and brought up the fact that John had been arrested in the past, for armed robbery and false imprisonment. John admitted his past convictions but insisted that he really was held at knifepoint — and that he stayed in the trailer for hours because he was afraid somebody was outside, waiting to hurt him.
It was Gregory Leon Spatcher who had awakened him with a knife at his throat, John said.
After Spatcher was arrested, John said he was walking along Pacific Coast Highway in Oceanside when three men “jumped me.” He said “basically they told me to keep my mouth shut.” John is currently a guest of the San Diego County district attorney, in an undisclosed location.
Money, tools, and a señorita
Gerardo said it was early on a Monday morning, August 20, when he got the series of alarming phone calls. He said the calls were “intense.”
“By the third call, it elevated to where [the kidnapper] actually said, ‘Listen, you don’t know who the fuck you’re dealing with. I got John here and we’re going to kill him if we don’t get Brittany’s car.’”
There were many threatening calls; Gerardo estimated 25. “‘Gonna kill John, cut his balls off,’ then come after me and my family,” said Gerardo. Then the caller wanted more than just Brittany’s car. “Now we need collateral. We need tools, money.”
Then, “He wanted four thousand dollars and the car. And a señorita.” The caller said he had contacts with the DMV and CIA and, “He was gonna get my location” in Mexico.
Gerardo called another mechanic who was in San Diego County, and that man was able to get $1000 cash. Then he called the angry voice. “I called back on John’s number and made an arrangement.” The other mechanic was able to deliver Brittany’s car to a certain gasoline station, where he left the cash, car, and keys and walked away.
Brittany said she was there when her car was brought to the gasoline station, according to detective Jonathan Hintz, who arrested her later. Brittany told Hintz that the cash was shared. The detective made a note of it when Brittany said some of the loot was spent by Spatcher’s girlfriend Dakota to get his name tattooed on her back. Brittany said she got her nails done while Dakota got tattooed.
Spatcher told the officer who arrested him that the whole thing was “staged” and that John was part of it. Detective Marcus Wunderlich said Spatcher claimed that John agreed to pretend that he was threatened.
Prosecutor Geoff Allard argued that Brittany “engaged in a plot to get her car back.” But a judge found insufficient evidence, and Brittany Marie Dushkin, 21, was released at the end of a preliminary hearing on October 9, 2012.
Spatcher, 31, was found to be in violation of probation on four prior felony cases; plus, he was ordered to face new felony charges, including kidnapping and extortion. Spatcher, who pleaded not guilty, will next appear at Vista’s North County Courthouse on January 23. ■