A Newcastle, Okla., man is charged with fraud after allegedly bilking consumers out of almost $100,000 for home repairs he did not complete, Attorney General Drew Edmondson said.
Jeffrey M. Fitzpatrick, 34, was charged in Canadian County District Court with three felony counts of home repair fraud. According to the state’s complaint, Fitzpatrick allegedly received payment from three metro-area consumers to install or repair swimming pools. According to the homeowners’ complaints, Fitzpatrick neither completed the work, nor refunded the consumers’ money.
Fitzpatrick is the owner of AAA Pools.
“We have received 14 complaints from consumers who were allegedly victimized by Jeffrey Fitzpatrick,” Edmondson said. “We suspect there may be others who have done business with Mr. Fitzpatrick and had a similar experience. Those people should contact our office.”
Edmondson said the case illustrates the need for consumers to protect themselves from home repair fraud. Last year, the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Unit received 135 home-repair-related complaints.
The storm season can be a particularly lucrative time for would-be scammers.
“Home repair fraud can happen to anyone at anytime,” Edmondson said. “But we seem to receive an influx of complaints immediately following severe weather. Regardless of whether you are doing storm clean up or making improvements to your property, there are some things you can do to protect yourself.”
Edmondson said consumers should always exercise caution before hiring home repairmen.
“There is nothing we can do to stop Mother Nature,” Edmondson said. “But we can control who we trust to repair the damage she causes. Just as tornado precautions can save lives, home repair precautions can save bank accounts and headaches.”
Edmondson is warning consumers to be on the look out for clues that might indicate a scam. Door-to-door solicitations, referral discounts or materials “left over” from another job could indicate a less-than-reputable contractor. Edmondson says to be wary of any contractor who only accepts cash payments or asks for payment up-front.
“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” Edmondson said. “Don’t hire anyone without asking for references and take the time to check those references.”
The attorney general also gave the following tips for hiring a home repairman:
* Always have a detailed written contract. The contract should spell out all costs for the work to be done and specify start and completion dates.
* Never pay a large amount of money up front. If a repairman demands a large down payment, you should see it as a warning sign.
* Contact the Attorney General’s Office or the Oklahoma Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any complaints against a particular repairman. If the repairman has a history of unhappy customers, take your business elsewhere.
For more information or to report possible fraud, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit at (405) 521-4274.
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