Man who runs Houston classic car restoration business accused of swindling customers out of over $100K

Jessie Montes was first indicted by a grand jury in March

HOUSTON – The search is on for a man who runs a Houston car restoration business. He’s accused of swindling customers out of over $100,000.

Jessie Guadalupe Montes is charged with two counts of theft aggregate and one count of money laundering. He is currently wanted by authorities.

“This is a straightforward, classic swindle,” said prosecutor Mike Eber, who handles financial crimes cases for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.

The alleged swindling has been going on for a couple years, Eber said, and Montes was first indicted by a grand jury in March.

According to court records, Montes runs a vehicle restoration and refurbishment business called American Vision Auto. The business is in the Memorial area off the Katy Freeway.

Montes collected tens of thousands of dollars for work never performed or for the sale of vehicles he never owned, according to court records. He’s accused of deliberately misrepresenting his ability to sell and provide numerous classic vehicles.

Of the victims Montes is charged for, court documents say he swindled approximately $105,000. Authorities also believe there may be other victims.

Records show this is not the first time Montes has been charged for crimes like this. He currently has a pending case out of the Lake Charles, LA area for similar actions involving Cadillacs and a Lamborghini.

“It’s important that he is held accountable. For Mr. Montes, the game of musical chairs has ended. The music’s over,” Eber said.

Montes has also been convicted or charged in the past for theft in Fayette, Austin, and Waller Counties.

“It leaves a bad taste for everyone else that does it, honestly,” said Justin Smith, who owns Smithy Customs in Northwest Harris County. “It’s disheartening.”

Smith has been on both sides of the business, first as a customer during a previous career.

"There’s nothing like having this old car cruising down the street on a perfect day, windows rolled down, sound of an engine, the smells,” Smith said.

His customers are local and from other states. He said they come with a sentimental value for vintage cars.

“Lack of communication is a big, big flag in my book,” he said. “You should be able to visit when you want to and and come by and check the progress of your build.”

He recommended building a relationship with the owner and staff before giving anyone car business.

“How they’re working around the shop and how clean their shop is, it’s a big indicator of, what to expect in the future,” he said.

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office wants to hear from other potential victims of Montes or American Vision Auto. You can call 713-274-5600.

UPDATE: After KPRC 2′s story aired Thursday night at 10 about Jessie Montes and the classic car business he runs in Houston, American Vision Auto, Harris County prosecutors say at least six more accusers have come forward with similar allegations.

As of Friday evening, records show Montes has not been taken into custody and remains on the run.

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office is still asking for other potential victims to call the Financial Crimes Division at 713-274-5600.

About the Authors

Christian Terry covered digital news in Tyler and Wichita Falls before returning to the Houston area where he grew up. He is passionate about weather and the outdoors and often spends his days off on the water fishing.

Bryce Newberry joined KPRC 2 in July 2022. He loves the thrill of breaking news and digging deep on a story that gets people talking.

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