Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Morning News' Bob Caudle reports on fraud perpetrated on Springdale women

The Morning News

Local News for Northwest Arkansas

Springdale Sisters Charged $5,000 For Cleanup

By Bob Caudle
SPRINGDALE -- The cleanup turned out to be worse than the ice storm for two elderly Springdale women.

Marcella Sharum, 85, and her twin sister, Drucilla Morris, say they paid Midwest Tree Service $5,000 for a little more than 90 minutes of work.

A Springdale firefighter knows the two ladies, heard about what had happened and reported it to Springdale Police.

"I'm sure this is not the last one of these reports we'll have," said Springdale Police Chief Kathy O'Kelley. "I've heard some outrageous quotes for this type of work."

Sharum said the sisters had been through a "horrible week." The two had been sleeping on cots at the Senior Center because of a power outage at their house.

"I just made a big boo-boo," Sharum said. "I know better than that. I just got pressured and got taken advantage of. I was afraid. I felt like they were very intimidating."

Sharum said she felt the tree service performed about $150 worth of work and that they had no big trees on the lot.

"But we didn't know what they were charging others," Sharum said. "He brought another man in with him. They were right here in the front room. I shouldn't have let them in the house."

O'Kelley said her department is investigating and assisting the sisters in referring the incident to the Attorney General's office for price gouging.

"It's important that the community pay attention and get more than one quote instead of rushing into something," O'Kelley said. "If they do suspect something, call police or code enforcement."

Washington County Prosecutor John Threet said he's aware of the incident and is waiting on information from the Springdale Police Department investigation.

"Just from what I've heard, it sounds like there was very little work done and they took advantage of them," Threet said. "I won't know for sure until I get the report from Springdale police. Basically, you shouldn't take advantage of anybody, especially a couple of little ol' ladies."

Threet said sometimes instances such as the sisters went through end up being civil lawsuits.

Meanwhile, Sharum is still upset with herself about the money paid for the work done.

"He came over from the neighbor's yard," Sharum said. "He said, 'I'll treat you right. I'll treat you right.' They're just criminal. They said they were from Kansas and they came down here to help us. They helped themselves is what they did."

At A Glance

Tips For Avoiding Post-Storm Scams

• Do not hire anyone you don't know or haven't checked out with friends, family, the Better Business Bureau or another reputable source.

• Do not pay up front for any service.

• Do not pay for supplies before the job is done.

• Make sure to get any agreement in writing.

• Make temporary repairs if necessary, but put off more costly permanent repairs until you can research contractors.

• Beware of door-to-door sales pitches, especially if they include warnings of structural damage and promises of a quick fix.

• Some crooked contractors have the insignia and business cards of real businesses.

Source: The Better Business Bureau And The Arkansas Attorney General's Office


Anonymous said...

Thanks to Caudle for exposing these thugs on our streets.
Let's hope that a small-town law officer, maybe a constable, catches these cowboys and let's the stampede run over them before he can find the call button to ask for backup!

Anonymous said...

Did the woman pay cash or call the bank to cancel the check?

Anonymous said...

I wish she had paid in marked dollar bills! Probably didn't use her digital camera to get their picture and license number while they worked.
I heard you say one day that your camera was better than carrying a gun. TOO bad little old ladies don't at least have camera phones.