Mechanic put car on fast track
By Ihosvani Rodriguez
San Antonio Express-News
It's not unusual for a mechanic to test drive a client's car.
But at a local racetrack?
Well, that's just criminal, prosecutors said Monday, right before San Antonio mechanic Rocky Castilleja pleaded no contest to charges of unlawful use of a vehicle.
Even more unusual was the way the lead-footed mechanic was caught.
"I don't even know how to begin to explain how unbelievable this is," said Sofia Aguilar, who purchased the car. "People can't believe this story."
Aguilar took the 1992 Mitsubishi 3000 GT to Castilleja's Kirby-area repair shop, Cast Automotive, on Jan. 11, 2002. It had transmission problems, and someone recommended Castilleja. The car was a college graduation present for her daughter, Regina, now 24.
After two weeks of being told the car wasn't ready, Aguilar went to the shop and saw the silver sports car parked, caked with dirt, on a lawn.
Castilleja, 37, said he had been doing some "diagnostic testing" on the car and that it was driving much better. Aguilar, a secretary at Fort Sam Houston, drove it around the block, and while the car wasn't running better, it did have 190 more miles.
"He told me that he hooked it to some equipment that added miles to the odometer," she said.
Nearly a month later, on Feb. 8, Castilleja's wife called Aguilar and said the car was ready. Come pick it up tomorrow morning, Aguilar was told.
That evening, Aguilar and her family went to River City Raceway and saw a familiar silver car darting down the track. Family members took note but dismissed it as just another shiny car.
They later saw the car take at least two practice trips across the track, while the family joked and began rooting for it because of its likeness, Aguilar said.
Finally, Regina went to pit row to check it out.
There, awaiting another qualifying run, with Castilleja behind the wheel, another 340 miles on the odometer and her "I love Hawaii" key chain still dangling from the ignition, was her car.
"She repeated to me 'I found my car' about four times. I didn't realize what she was trying to tell me. I thought she meant she found the car of her dreams, but she was crying," Aguilar said. "And, yeah, it was our car!"
The family told an off-duty officer in the stands, and according to a police report, a pit-side confrontation with the mechanic ensued.
Aguilar "knew I was going to test drive it," the officer quoted Castilleja as saying.
"At the racetrack?" shot back Aguilar's husband, Juan. "I don't think so."
Castilleja was arrested two weeks later after Aguilar filed a report with Kirby police.
A sentencing date has not been set. Castilleja will likely be put on two years' probation and ordered to pay a $1,200 fine and restitution, Assistant District Attorney Kevin O'Connell said.
Neither the mechanic nor his attorney could be reached for comment Monday.
Aguilar reports that the car was in bad shape after the racing. It's now in South Carolina, where her daughter lives.
So how did the car do at the track?
"It didn't even qualify," Aguilar said.