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KRDO investigates complaints of ‘tattoo voucher scam’ resurfacing

A buyer beware warning as complaints resurface regarding a local tattoo-voucher scam in Colorado Springs.

Case reports filed by Colorado Springs Police reveal body artist James Ortiz – better known as “Tattoo Ortiz” was accused of multiple counts of theft and forgery back in 2012. A KRDO investigation first exposed the complaints when Ortiz owned “Hellbent Tattoos” before it shut down.

In 2012, more than a dozen consumers reported losing money after buying a ‘voucher’ from Ortiz. The deal was advertised as “$300 worth of tattoos for only $75.” The voucher was posted on the website

According to that report, 700 coupons were sold. Yet, consumers claimed he failed to honor the deal or canceled appointments.

“They got ripped off, so they were upset,” said Michael Stevenson, owner of Sinister Tattoos off Platte. “$10K or more dollars were involved in that loss.”

Stevenson said he’s offered to help several customers who claimed to be scammed from Ortiz.

Seven years later starting in August 2019, new complaints surfaced alleging Ortiz was back in town doing the same thing. The allegations mirror what was reported in 2012 surrounding issues with failing to honor deals, canceling appointments, or not rescheduling.

KRDO reached out to Ortiz to get his side, but couldn’t reach him on the phone. After leaving a message, reporter Stephanie Sierra showed up at “Elm Street Tattoos” where she learned he recently got hired. No one was at the business, despite the open sign flashing in the window.

A quick check of Facebook revealed Ortiz also lists himself as the owner of “Pikes Peak Graphics & Decals.” KRDO staff drove to the listed address, but within minutes of reaching the sidewalk they were asked to leave. An hour later, Sierra got a call from Deanna Bartholow who claimed to be the owner of Elm Street Tattoos.

“Are you aware of what James Ortiz was accused of doing back in 2012?” Sierra asked.

“Yes and it wasn’t true,” Bartholow said.

Update: Ortiz called Sierra Friday evening providing the following statement denying any voucher scams.

“We have rescheduled several people because of unexpected situations that have happened recently,” said Ortiz, listing things like a vehicle breaking down, a newborn baby, and sick parents. “People have gotten very angry we have a no refund policy that applies to everyone.”

Ortiz said he has completed most of the work for the appointments that were rescheduled.

“I have offered to reschedule everyone and have never denied work to anyone,” Ortiz said. “I also have offered extra tattoo work for the inconvenience.”

Elm Street Tattoos is a licensed facility with the El Paso County Public Health Department. Yet, the facility did get flagged with violations in the last inspection report filed in September.

KRDO Only 2019

Local News / News / State & Regional News


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