When Shawn Zaczkowski took his car to Ultimate Auto Spa in Bloomfield to get repaired, he never thought a garage like this one would send his life in a downward spiral.
"I have never been through this situation in my life before," Zaczkowski said. "I mean, I lost everything.."
In March, Zaczkowski paid nearly $2000 to have his 2001 Oldsmobile Alero's engine, tires, brakes and tie rods replaced. He waited for the repairs but says they were never completed.
After the shop claimed the car had been fixed in July, Zaczkowski says Ultimate Auto Spa ceased answering his calls and eventually shut down, abandoning his still-busted car in their lot.
"I've been trying each and every way and it's been six months of trying and I just can't find them," said Zaczkowski.
While his broken-down car sat outside the shop, Zaczkowski couldn't get to work as a freelance car detailer.
"I lost my place, I lost my job, I lost everything," Zaczkowski said.
Within a month, he was homeless.
Then came a divine intervention of sorts. Bishop Martin Boyle of St. Robert's Monastery in Enfield heard about Shawn's predicament and offered him a place to stay as he tried to get his car back.
"Anybody who is really down and out, down on their luck, down on their needs, we'll help them in any manner we can," Boyle told NBC Connecticut. "It's part of our calling to help those who cannot help themselves because of various circumstances."
Boyle started praying for him, too. Zaczkowski was deeply skeptical.
"I don't know if I need the prayers," Zaczkowski said. "I need the car, you know?" he laughed.
The bishops then called the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters to help get Zaczkowski's money back.
According to the Office of the Secretary of the State, Irving Perez and Jose Torres co-own Extreme Auto Spa. When we tracked down Perez, he claimed he left the shop months ago and knew nothing about Zaczkowski's car.
"It's got nothing to do with me," he said at his home.
Perez blamed his co-owner Jose Torres, also listed as a principal according to the Secretary of the State's office. When the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters inquired with the DMV, an arrest record and violation was found.
"He admitted to performing repairs on vehicles without holding a license from the DMV. At the time, we did arrest him and charge him with that case," explained Lt. Christopher Smith, who directly handled Extreme Auto Spa's violation.
Fixing cars without a repair license issued by the DMV is illegal in Connecticut. With his case still pending in court, Torres himself was nowhere to be found. Meanwhile, Zaczkowski's car just sat in the empty lot.
Finally fed up, Zaczkowski got permission from the state government to have his car towed to a junkyard, which paid him a mere $200 to sell the parts for scrap.
It was not until we visited the Torres' home and spoke with his family that the co-owner decided to come forward. He declined to show his face on camera but immediately declared he would take responsibility for what happened to his customer.
Just three days after the Troubleshooters got involved, Torres volunteered to sit down with Zaczkowski at the monastery to work things out.
Torres signed a promissory note that requires him to repay Zaczkowski in $300 per week installments until the nearly two-thousand dollar deposit is fully refunded. Torres also offered to help find his client a replacement used car.
Eventually, Torres also issued a statement on behalf of his company and co-owner Irving Perez:
"I just wanted to say I am glad Shaun Zaczkowski and I have come together to resolve the issue at hand. On behalf of me and Extreme Auto Spa LLC, I send my deepest apologies and have learned cause [sic] of this to pay better attention to what my staff does after hours."
"It was a big relief," Zaczkowski told NBC Connecticut. "I was shocked, I had a lot of respect for him calling, manning up and explaining the situation.."
Now that Zaczkowski can start to get his life back on track, one wonders whether all those prayers were actually answered.
"It's possible, it's possible," Zaczkowski said with a shrug.
The bishop is certain somebody was listening.
"Yes definitely...we rely on the man upstairs. God," Boyle said, pointing upward.
Experts recommend that all car owners verify their service providers are officially licensed by the DMV. If you have complaints regarding car repair or purchases related to a vehicle, contact the DMV and the Connecticut Better Business Bureau.