Last week, social media was ablaze with reports that PDRA Top Sportsman racer Jamie Fowler was held up at gunpoint, and his engine, transmission, and torque converter (along with his friend’s truck, four-wheeler trailer and other items) were stolen in the incident. Fowler was selling the items and met with a potential buyer who ended up being an unscrupulous individual who, along with four others, held Fowler, his friend, Danny Sinclair, and his aunt at gunpoint, eventually making off with over $50,000 in stolen goods.
Kelly Fowler (Jamie’s wife) addressed what happen in a Facebook post the following morning. It read:
“To the pieces of sh*t that decided to hold my husband, friend and aunt at gunpoint and steal the motor, transmission, converter and everything else your broke ass was supposedly “buying”…I hope that whatever you decide to put all of our shit in blows up with you in it! We worked hard for everything we own and you basically stole 50k right out of our pockets! So guess what…karma is a bitch and I hope you meet her very soon!”
We caught up with Jamie in the aftermath to hear what actually happened, and when you hear the entire story, you quickly see how it could happen to any of us.
EDITOR’S NOTE:The following is Jamie Fowler’s firsthand account of the events leading up to this armed robbery. This is a very detailed and emotional story. Sections of the story have been rearranged from Fowler’s original account to make the story easier to read and follow. Due to the investigation still being active, names and some details have been omitted from this account. Anyone with any information is asked to contact the Richland County (SC) Sheriff Department, Investigator Taima Jordan at 803-576-3486.
It’s definitely been a rough 48 hours here lately. Um, I just, uh, I feel like a complete idiot. I mean, we’ve done dealings before and sold stuff in the past. This was just a very well planned out deal. He and I spoke on the phone, also on Facebook and stuff, but we spoke on the phone for a week. He made me feel comfortable with the situation. Not only did this individual set everything up, he was name-dropping people that we race with that are very well respected, known associates in the racing world. He was telling me about events that were going on with people’s cars and certain things that were happening that if you’re not connected to the racing world or part of the racing family, there’s no way you could know the stuff that was going on. I even fact-checked some of the stuff that he was telling me was happening. I made some phone calls and everything that I was fact-checking was verified. He would tell me somebody’s car was getting wired or something and I’d call and check with our wiring guy and he’s like, “yeah, I got a car here”. I fact-checked everything. It wasn’t like how people have blasted us, or blasted my wife on Facebook. I didn’t just meet some strange dude on Facebook and I went and met him in a parking lot with $50,000.
He sucked me in! He was a very well-spoken, very well-mannered young man. Everything was “yes sir” and “no sir.” When he originally called, he knew all the right questions to ask. It wasn’t just some guy saying, “Hey man, you got a motor? What does it run?” Listen, he was calling asking us specifics, you know, “What heads are on it? What crank y’all got in it? What cam?” This is an engine guy, not just somebody that I think is a complete dumbass and don’t know what they’re talking about.
Let me back up to day one. I am not a hugely funded race team. It is just me and my wife, some family and friends, and a few sponsors that give us a little help. I’m just like every typical racer that races way outside their means. You know we all freaking do it. Race season was over, we just finished out the PDRA World Finals in Virginia. We were trying to step up our game for next season, and trying to get a bigger engine. I sold my motorhome two weeks after the end of racing season. I pulled my trailer up here in the driveway, unhooked it and I put my motorhome up for sale, and it sold. I went out last Friday and just purchased a new engine for next season. I spent a bunch of money. I bought a 5.300, all-billet nitrous engine. So I was kind of gambling, and the way I was gambling was I sold my motorhome.
I bought this motor, but what we were planning on trying to do is sell [the old] motor. I was trying to sell this 738 motor for $30,000 to have enough money for a down payment for me to get another motorhome. The motorhome I had before was paid for, so we sold that to buy the big motor. Then the plan was to sell the 738 and have $30,000 as a down payment for a new motorhome. You can finance a motorhome, you can’t finance a race engine. So that was my plan.
So I’ve got my motor out on all these racing pages on Facebook. It’s probably on 15 different pages trying to sell it. Well, you get through all of these tire kickers, people calling and asking questions. You can weed out the ones that understand what you got and the ones that don’t. I had, at the time, what I believe to be two different individuals calling me, all within an hour of where I live, both wanting this engine.
Guy #1—Well, this guy contacts me out of the blue through one of the racing pages on Facebook and says, “Hey, can I get your personal number? I’d like to talk to you about the engine you have, and not over Facebook.” So I message the guy, send him my cell phone number. He immediately calls me and we talked back and forth for a couple of days.
I said, “Look, y’all can get the motor, it’s $30,000.” He said, “I don’t want just the motor. I want the whole unit. What will you charge us for the transmission, converter, bellhousing, and everything?” Initially, all of that stuff wasn’t for sale, and this is where I get screwed. I only wanted to sell the motor to have a down payment on a motorhome.
This individual says, “Hey, I don’t want just the motor. I want motor and transmission and all. If you’ve got the transmission gear ratios set up for that motor and you’ve played with a torque converter I want it all. I want to buy everything so I can just drop it in and go.”
That’s a reasonable request that’s not outside of the norm. I’m a racing guy and I understand that. I tell him, “I can tell you my car works. I don’t know if your car works, but if you buy the whole unit, I can send you out there and go 4.05 or 4.06 off the hit.”
It’s all believable. I told him, “I don’t know what it’ll cost me to replace everything. Let me hang up with you, I need to call Mark Micke and find out before I can put a price on it.” So I got off the phone, I reached out to Mark and he gave me a price. He said, “Jamie, if they want buy it, sell it to him that way. I have it set up for the 738 5-inch motor. If you go into a 5.300 deal, it ain’t going to be the same setup.”
So I call these individuals back and I’m like, “All right dude, here’s where I’m at. $30,000 on the motor. $15,000 I’ll sell you the torque converter, transmission, and some spare parts.” The guy says he wants it, and I said, “OK, somebody bring me some money.”
I told him the motor is already out of the car and is sitting here in the floor, but give me an hour and I’ll have the transmission out. He says, “We are on the way to get it.” I said when you’re on the road, let me know and I’ll give you my home address. So my wife and me go down there in the shop and pull the transmission because I think I got somebody coming and get it. Well this was on that Sunday, and I never hear anything else from them, so I’m like, dammit, it’s just another tire kicker pulling my chain. But no big deal. I blew it off.
Guy #2—Later in the afternoon I get another phone call from a different individual that I did not send my cell phone number to. So I was like how did he get my cell phone number? I just assumed because it was on some of my posts, he saw it and I didn’t think anything of it.
Well, the second individual calls me and I can tell he’s a younger guy. He says, “Hey man, I heard one of my boys is trying to buy your stuff.” I said, “If you’re talking about [guy #1], he just called me.” He said, “My name’s [guy #2] and I live on the other side of Columbia and I want that motor before they get it.” He said those guys got plenty of money. They got two or three cars. I need that thing way more than they do. I said, “Man, this is business. I told him whoever brings me money first, that’s who’s going to get it. Nobody’s brought me a deposit and it is sitting here on the floor. Whoever wants it, gets it. Y’all let me know when somebody is on the road and I’ll send you my house address.”
He says, “I, uh, I’m a, I’m trying to find a truck. My truck is broke, and I’m trying to find a buddy with a truck and I’m coming to get it.” So then I ask my wife, “What’s the odds we got two individuals on the same day that’s got $45,000 on a Saturday?” Part of me is trying to second-guess it.
Now we roll into Sunday. The first individual who reached out to me on Facebook sends me a message and says, “Hey man, I’m out on your motor. We bought something else.” I just said thank you for the heads up. No big deal. No harm, no foul. It happens.
But then about an hour after this dude backs out, [guy #2] calls me again. He is always respectful. “Hey, Mr. Fowler. Hey Jamie. Yes sir. No sir.” You know, not some street dude, you know? He said, “I just heard that the other boys backed out on your motor. I said they did. So it’s like they knew what each other were doing. I said, “Yep, they backed out. What’s the deal? You still interested?” He said, “Yes, sir, I’m still interested. Like I said, I just need to find a truck, like I told you yesterday, and I’m coming to pick it up.” I said, “Well, just let me know, brother. You got my phone number.”
Sunday goes by, I hear nothing else from him. Monday, I’m at work and he calls me at lunchtime. He says, “Hey, Mr. Fowler. I’m trying to get there tonight. I think I got someone that’s going to let me get a truck from them or are going to come help me.” He said, “Are you available tonight if I can get there?” I said, “Sure, just let me know.” So he hangs up, but every time he said he was going to call me, he called me. If I called him, I never got sent to voicemail. It made it seem more and more legit; I got more and more comfortable.
So he called me Monday afternoon and he says, “Mr. Fowler, I need to talk to you.” He says, “I want your motor.” He says, “And I don’t have a lot of money like the other boys do. My grandmother is helping me buy this motor and transmission. Obviously, I’ve got to pay her back, but my grandmother’s helping me with the money.”
I said, “OK, what do we need to do?” He says, “Here’s the deal. Grandmother doesn’t trust giving me $45,000 and I come to you. I don’t know you, you don’t know me. It could be a setup. My grandmother’s old school and she needs to meet you in person and she will pay you.” And I said, “OK, well put Grandma in the car and come on down here.” He says, “I can’t, here’s the deal. Grandmother owns a feed and seed store. Man, it’s like 45 minutes from my house in the opposite direction.”
I know the store he’s talking about. It’s a well-lit parking lot and it does have surveillance cameras. So he’s like, “Grandmother owns the feed and seed. Can you bring all that to the store and Grandmother will pay you? Plus, I can use the forklift that Grandma has in the back and we can unload the motor out of your truck. If you got the engine cradle, I can use the forklift so we can get it out. It all makes sense if I’m a younger kid and you don’t have $45,000 and somebody’s going to loan it to you. Grandmother feels comfortable that we’re at her place of business. It’s well lit. It’ll be at her place of business inside the store when the money transaction happens and it’s all on surveillance camera.”
So my wife and I are feeling much more comfortable that this is a legitimate deal. So I said, “Here’s what we’ll do. I work right down the road from where this store is. I drive by it every day. It’s too late to do something tonight, but how about I stop by on my way home from work tomorrow and speak to Grandmother. I’ll introduce myself, shake her hand, and let her know everything’s on the up and up. I’ll load everything in my truck and I’ll bring it to you. I know what it’s like when you’re just started in racing.”
“Not a problem. Mr. Fowler, thank you so much. You don’t have no clue. I mean most people wouldn’t do that, man. Thank you so much, man.” I mean, this kid is legitimately jacked up and freaking excited! There’s no part of me or my wife that thinks that this is a setup. There’s been nothing that makes you feel uncomfortable.
Well, Tuesday comes along and I’m supposed to stop at the feed store and see the grandmother. Well, the stars align in his favor. And when I say that is because at 3:00 on Tuesday, my wife calls me and something’s wrong with my daughter, and they’re rushing her to the emergency room. My daughter just turned 13 and she’s got a bad case of Bell’s palsy right now. I was supposed to meet Grandmother, and if I had stopped at the feed store, I would have realized that Grandmother doesn’t own the store. The gig would have been up. But the stars aligned and obviously my daughter is more important than this damn motor.
So I actually called [guy #2] on the phone, and again, he answered on the first ring. I said, “Look, here’s what’s going on, my wife’s at the hospital. Something’s going on with my daughter. I don’t know what it is, but I may be out of contact for the next couple of days. Tell Grandmother that I’m sorry, but I cannot meet her today. I’ve got to handle this with my daughter. He says, “Mr. Fowler, I understand. You do what you need to do.”
First thing the next morning, this kid calls me. He doesn’t ask about the motor. He says, “Mr. Fowler, how is your daughter? I just wanted to check on her.” It just completely made me feel comfortable with this dude. You know what I mean? We’re on a personal level now. The hell with selling the motor!
I said, “Look, man, she’s going to be OK. She’s got Bell’s palsy.” There’s not really a treatment we can do for it. We just got to help her through it. I said, “Look, man, it’s been a rough couple of days. Let’s just get this damn motor deal done. I’m ready for you to get it. I’m ready to be done with this. I need to focus on my daughter. Can you do it tonight?” He said, “Yes, sir! I didn’t think we could do it because of your daughter, but yes, sir, we can do it tonight.” I said, “What time is good to be at Grandma’s store? He said, “7:30.” I said, “Man, I’ll make it happen.”
So we come home, we load everything up in the truck. And here again, not trying to be a complete dumbass, but I thought that being a racer and knowing what it’s like to be just starting out, I would’ve been freaking ecstatic to get a proven 738! You know what I’m saying? This kid is struggling. Hell, I’m going to be a good dude and I’m going to help him out. So I load all this shit up.
He wanted the same thing as the first guy. He wanted motor, transmission, converter, everything. I loaded up all the spare parts. I load everything I have for this motor. I even give him my maintenance tools because everything I had for a 5-inch bore space motor isn’t going to work on a 5.300. I don’t need the ring compressor. I don’t need the dingleberry tool. So I’m going to give it to him.
I load all this stuff up in the truck, and I’m running behind. We’re supposed to meet at 7:30. I call him and he instantly answers the phone. I said, “Look, man, I’m running behind. I am not going to make it at 7:30. It’s going to be more like 8:30.” He said, “All right, well, let’s just plan on 8:30.” I said, “Sounds good, I’ll call you when I’m getting close.” So we load everything up and we’re in route.
It’s me, my best friend and my aunt. We pull up at the feed store at 8:30. Well, the individual is not there. So I call him and ask, “Are you coming? What’s the deal, man?” He said, “I’m 10 minutes away, I had to get gas.” So we’re there, but we’re still cautious. You have to be. So I have my firearm in the truck with me and I’ve went ahead and pulled it out of the case, made it hot and I got it sitting in the floorboard of the truck. We’re all armed, you know. Not that we’re flashing guns, but we are prepared. Not like the dumbasses on the Internet bashing us in the head for a couple of days.
Sure enough, man, 10 minutes later he pulls up. He gets out of the car and he’s got a backpack on his shoulder. Well, first off you get to thinking, “OK, well, that’s your money. You get out with a big backpack. You’re supposed to have 40 something thousand dollars, you’re good to go.” Well he walks up and I said, “Are you [guy #2]? And he says, “I am.” He said, “Are you Jamie?” I said, yep. And I was like, “Well, nice to finally meet you, buddy. How you doing?”
This is where shit started to not add up to me real quick, and I started getting an uneasy feeling. Some shit wasn’t adding up. We got a lot of stuff to unload. We got parts, motor, transmission and converter, and you have not cut your car off yet. Like why is the car still running? You should have pulled up and cut the car off. “Uh, why do you have the backpack on your shoulder? ‘Cause I thought Grandma had the money?”
So I start easing back towards the truck. You know, ‘cause something just don’t feel right, you know? So he makes the comment, “Man, I don’t know why Grandma’s not here right now. He says, “Man, let me call her and see where she’s at. She should’ve been here by now.” Well, he calls somebody on the phone and soon as that call was made, two individuals jumped out from behind the store. One with an assault rifle, one with a shotgun and they come running up to us. I reach for my pistol and the dude with a shotgun makes it to me before I can get into the truck. So he obviously holds me at direct gunpoint. I did not realize that when they got the drop on us, another two individuals that I did not even know where there, jumped out of the back seat of the [vehicle they arrived in].
So now it’s five of them and everyone’s armed, two long guns and rest of them with pistols. They put everybody on the ground face down. They took all of our cell phones and immediately jumped in the truck that we had the motor and all that stuff in and sped it out of the parking lot. The remaining individuals jumped back in the [other vehicle], sped out of the parking lot, and sprayed the parking lot with bullets while they were leaving. I have no clue how four of us face down in a parking lot didn’t get hit with the amount of bullets that were fired. Thank the good Lord above for looking out for us. It was not our night to die. I don’t know how none of us got hit.
Like I said, when I reached for my gun, I did get my hand on it. But the individual made it point blank to me with the shotgun. At that point in time, I made a decision. I wanted to come home to my family, so I immediately dropped my firearm back in the floorboard of the truck. They got us all face down, put guns in our backs while the truck sped off. And then the remaining individuals jumped back into the [other vehicle] and peeled out as well.
So like I said, thank goodness. I don’t know how nobody got hit with the amount of of gunfire, but God looked out for us. So that’s where we stand at this time. There is an ongoing investigation.
They found Danny’s truck at 3:30 in the morning, burnt to a crisp, and non-recoverable. The truck was abandoned in the middle of the highway three miles from where they jacked us on fire, so that’s a total loss. But thankfully, he had car insurance and is going to get another truck.
But there is no insurance on a transmission, torque converter and other parts. So I’ve taken a huge $45,000 hit when originally I had no intentions of selling that transmission and converter. I was just going to put my new motor in the car, and let Mark Micke put a new gear set in the trans, freshen it up and we were going racing. That $30,000 was going to try to get me another motorhome so I can pull my trailer.
I’m currently sitting here and I don’t really know what this means for my racing program. Yes, I bought a brand-new motor, but I don’t have $17,000 or $18,000 to get a new transmission and converter, or a motorhome to get the car to the track. There’s my problem. Even if I’m able to piece my car back together, we needed to be able to get to the races and I can’t move my trailer. I have a 40-foot Renegade liftgate trailer sitting in the driveway. I don’t have a 28-foot bumper pull. It’s not something you can just hook a dually up to move it around. It was my dumbass decision trying to race outside our means. I was trying to pull a magic trick! “Let’s get a big motor or let’s do this, we need this 5.300 motor, blah, blah, blah. Hopefully we can sell our motor and be able to buy a truck.” So now I’m sitting here, and I don’t really know if I can recover.
I’m overwhelmed with the people who are definitely trying to help us. It shows you who the family is—who your true family is in this type of situation. People offer me help to put my car back together and I want to take that help, but if I can’t get the car to the track I’d feel freaking horrible. I don’t know how we’re going to address that right now.