Worst Dallas-Fort Worth Contractors of 2011
Comfort Experts/Hobson Air Conditioning | Weatherford, Texas
Celeste Lescelius of Azle filed a failing report on Comfort Experts in March after she says the nearly $9,000 air conditioning unit that the company installed stopped working properly and they tried to charge her more than $500 to repair it.
"They aren't standing by [their work]," says Lescelius, who joined Angie's List to get help in resolving her complaint. "If I would have gone with Angie's List to start with, I never would have dealt with them."
The poorly rated company, which also does business as Hobson Air Conditioning, landed in the Penalty Box for failing to respond to Lescelius' complaint and received 10 failing reports in 2011. Members complain of faulty equipment, failure to honor warranties, overpriced parts and repairs, and high-pressure sales tactics. A notice alerts members to the Penalty Box case.
Stephen Maxwell of Fort Worth won a civil suit against Hobson after one of the company's technicians told Maxwell he found a carbon monoxide leak during a routine tuneup. "He said we would've been dead within a few days if he wouldn't have caught it," Maxwell says. "Within an hour, they were trying to sell me a $15,000 heating unit."
Unsure, Maxwell asked two other HVAC companies to check his unit for a leak, but he says no leak was found. "I wrote Hobson a letter asking for a refund," Maxwell says. "They never offered to give me my money back."
As of press time, Hobson was named as a defendant in multiple civil suits in Tarrant, Dallas and Parker counties. The Dallas BBB received 123 complaints, and the Texas attorney general reported 22 consumer complaints. The state's Department of Licensing and Regulation confirmed it's investigating five consumer complaints against Hobson, which holds a current air conditioning and refrigeration contractor's license, but the agency declined to provide further information.
Company Vice President Brian Hobson told Angie's List Magazine that he's unaware of the TDLR investigations, and he deals with each complaint individually and promptly.
James D. Herrin | Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas
Detective Donald Casey of the Dallas Police Department's Swindle Squad says scam complaints dropped dramatically after investigators arrested James D. Herrin in February on felony theft charges. "Since James went to jail, we haven't had but one home repair scam," he says. "But I know he'll start right up again when he gets out."
In April, the 57-year-old Herrin pleaded guilty to three counts of felony theft from an elderly person, and a Dallas County judge sentenced him to three years in prison.
His defense attorney, Hank Judin, says Herrin's incarcerated in a Rosharon prison and will likely be eligible for parole in a year. "He won't do a whole lot of time in Texas," Judin says. A notice on his AL profile alerts members.
Casey says Herrin, who has previous felony convictions and at least 10 arrests in Dallas County, targeted elderly homeowners by telling them they needed roof repairs then grossly overcharged them.
"He gave them a $200 estimate, banged around on their roof, then produced a bill for $10,000. He would use intimidation to get whatever he could squeeze out of them," Casey says. "We have no idea how many victims there are because some may not know they were victimized, or were too embarrassed to admit it."
Highland Park resident Margretta Aviles, 69, says Herrin rang her doorbell in January so he could inform her that he saw a squirrel enter her house through a hole in her roof.
"He told me not to worry, but he noticed I needed some roofing work done," she says. "I'm a cautious person, so I ran Herrin off my property and called the police."
Casey says Aviles' report helped DPD track down and arrest Herrin. He also cautions homeowners to always say "no" when approached by solicitors.
"There are some really smooth-talking, skilled scam artists out there like James," he says. "Don't give them the opportunity to even try to victimize you."
Texas Moving Services / TMS Trans National Moving Service | Kaufman, Texas
"The worst people I've ever dealt with." That's how Plano resident Timothy Floyd describes Texas Moving Services, the company that brokered his move from Denver in February. He says the owner, Emily Grubbs, threatened to keep his property unless he paid about $1,000 more than the original estimate.
After the U.S. Department of Transportation fined TMS $25,000 last year following at least three customers' complaints, manager John Roberts says, on behalf of Grubbs, TMS no longer brokers moves and only performs jobs with its own employees and trucks.
TMS has an failing rating on the List with four reports. The company lacked proper state and federal licensing for part of 2011 after allowing its insurance to expire. Grubbs is also listed as owner of Nationwide Moving Services and Trans National Moving Service.
United Pro Cleaners | Dallas
Rowlett member Anna West says United Pro Cleaners offered services for $179.85 over the phone, but ended up falsely claiming she had mold and charging her $1,700 for a job that left her ductwork dirty and her carpet soaking wet. The 72-year-old says she joined Angie's List as a result and filed a negative report on the company in March.
Member Jane Morgan of Lewisville says United Pro charged her $1,400 for a bad air duct cleaning job. Her complaint landed the company in the Penalty Box, and a notice alerts members.
State records show the company registered as Ben's Air Duct & Carpet Cleaning, but dissolved in 2009. Its registered agent is Roey Mashia, but Angie's List and the Dallas BBB list Ben Mashai as the owner. Messages left on the company's phone were not returned.
J-Tex Construction | Fort Worth
Norris L. Fisher, 63, former owner of now-defunct J-Tex Construction, received a 20-year prison sentence in April after pleading guilty to four felony counts of mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Federal authorities say Fisher, a two-time Worst Contractor, targeted more than 150 properties owned by elderly or recently deceased residents in Tarrant County.
He illegally forged deeds, transferred ownership to companies he controlled and then sold the properties, according to court records. A notice on J-Tex's profile alerts members.
A federal judge ordered Fisher to repay $4.6 million to victims. That order may be mostly symbolic, notes Amanda McMurrey of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. "Given his age and diminished earning capacity, there's not much to expect," she says.
Mark Danielson, Fisher's attorney, says he's appealing Fisher's sentence.
- by Ellen Miller, Jackie Norris and Meranda Watling