RINGGOLD, Ga. — For several months, angry customers walked up and down the halls in Kendall Marshall's business, complaining that they couldn't get their computer equipment back from a shop a few doors down.
Marshall, who owned the building, was suspicious of his tenant Greg Ratliff, who owned Fast Fix Computer Repair, a shop in the same building. But Ratliff was a hard worker and Marshall believed the man was only behind on his work.
"The guy had a heck of a business," Marshall said.
It wasn't until Ringgold police began receiving complaints from Ratliff's customers in early February that an investigation was launched. Ratliff left town after trying to sell the business, Ringgold Police Chief Dan Bilbrey said.
Police now believe Ratliff -- who has a theft record that extends to 1988 in North Carolina -- was swindling multiple customers in Ringgold for two to three months, keeping thousands of dollars in equipment and not performing services he had been paid to do, Bilbrey said.
Ratliff faces more than a dozen theft-by-conversion charges and the complaints still are coming in, the chief said. So far, 15 people have complained to the police department and police are working on warrants for Ratliff's arrest.
Authorities believe Ratliff is hiding in North Carolina and, once the warrants are complete, officers will work with law enforcement in that state to have him arrested and extradited, the police chief said.
This isn't the first time Ratliff, who is from North Carolina, has been charged with theft.
He was arrested twice in 2011 in Catoosa County on charges of writing bad checks and felony theft by conversion, police reports show. It's unclear whether the first case, issued in July, ever made it to court.
The latest arrest came in December after a judge issued an arrest warrant accusing Ratliff of taking more than $900 to install surveillance camera equipment but never completing the task.
But officials at the Catoosa County Sheriff's Office said no investigation was opened on Ratliff because both warrants were taken out by citizens in Magistrate Court. While the sheriff's office will pick up anyone facing a magistrate warrant, it doesn't begin investigations into such cases.
Ratliff also has a criminal record in Burke County, N.C., according to records. He was convicted on multiple theft charges and for driving on a revoked license in that state, but he violated probation and a judge gave him a suspended sentence in 2009 that didn't require him to serve time in jail.
Two years ago, Ratliff opened the repair shop in Ringgold after applying for a city business license. Background checks are not required to approve a regular business license, Bilbrey said.
Police are asking anyone who hasn't received their computer equipment from Fast Fix Computer Repair to call the department at 706-935-3066.
Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...