Indy Senior Citizens Targeted By Contractor Scams, AG Says
Four Indianapolis-area home improvement contractors accused of scamming elderly residents by taking money for repair work they never performed face legal action by the Indiana attorney general, including a possible ban from ever operating in the state again.
The AG’s lawsuit, filed in Marion Superior Court, names four defendants: Hank Eversole, doing business as Hank’s Construction; Joe Eversole, doing business as Joe’s Value Construction & Trees; Robert Eversole, doing business as EJ’s Tree & Construction; and Joseph Martin, also doing business as EJ’s Tree & Construction.
The four men operated individually and together under the various business names, according to the lawsuit, and AG Greg Zoeller says they’ve operated under at least six different business names since 2007.
One victim in the case, 73-year-old Robert Adams, who lives on the Far Eastside of Indianapolis, says he paid Martin $3,200 to tear down and rebuild his deck, but the job remains unfinished. Adams says Martin knocked on his door last fall, said he had done some work in the past for Adams’ late brother, and asked whether he needed any work done around the house or yard.
“I asked if he was any good at building decks, and he said ‘Oh, I’ve built hundreds of them,’” Adams says, adding that he paid Martin $1,200 to remove the deck and $2,000 for materials to build a replacement. He says Martin tore down the deck, then never returned and ignored Adams’ repeated requests to complete the work.
“He wouldn’t talk to me on the phone,” Adams says. “He told me to go hump myself. He said, ‘Take me to court,’ and ‘Find me if you can.’ I couldn’t find him. The only thing I had was his phone number and his name.”
When reached by phone for comment by Angie’s List, Martin denied the allegations. “I can tell you it’s all not true,” he says, but he declined to elaborate further.
Molly Johnson, a public information officer with the AG’s office, notes that the three Eversoles are all related, and Martin is related to the family by marriage. “Based upon our investigation, the defendants have shown a history of working closely together, often selling jobs for one another, or otherwise working on those jobs,” she says.
Zoeller’s suit also alleges the defendants took more than $13,000 from one woman over the course of a month for a variety of projects that were never completed, including landscaping and roofing. In another case, the AG says several of the contractors scammed an 82-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s disease for unneeded repair jobs, including a chimney leak that never existed. The lawsuit says the defendants accepted a $15 deposit check from her and altered it to $1,500 before cashing it.
“The defendants in this case have demonstrated a ruthless pattern of victimizing the elderly, and they need to be stopped,” Zoeller said in a statement. “Tragically, we see this scam all too often.”
The complaint filed Oct. 31 accuses the four contractors of violating the state’s Deceptive Consumer Sales Act, the Home Improvement Contracts Act, the Home Solicitation Sales Act and the Senior Consumer Protection Act. It seeks restitution for the victims and a court order banning the defendants from operating home improvement businesses in Indiana.
Another defendant, Robert Eversole, also denied the allegations. “It’s not true. I’m not guilty of any of that, and my attorney is going to fight it,” he says, adding that he continues to do home improvement work but he refused to identify the company under which he operates.
According to Angie’s List records, a man named Robert Eversole previously worked as Robert’s Tree Experts and Construction at the same address listed for Eversole on the AG complaint. This company has an F rating on the List based on two reviews, and is in the Penalty Box for failing to respond to complaints about work Angie’s List members say they paid for but the company never completed.
A third defendant, Joe Eversole, declined to comment on whether he was still doing business in the Indy area and referred further questions to his attorney, who did not return calls seeking comment. “I don’t work with any of those guys,” Joe Eversole says. “I resolve any complaints I receive.”
Hank Eversole could not be reached for comment. The case remains pending in Marion Superior Court.
Zoeller says the scams highlight the need for a statewide home improvement contractor registry, which he’s proposed for consideration in the upcoming legislative session. To be included on the voluntary registry available to the public online, home improvement contractors would be required to post a performance bond to cover customers should the contractor violate Indiana’s Home Improvement Contract laws or the Indiana Deceptive Consumer Sales Act.
Johnson says the registry would protect homeowners and provide another resource to identify reputable contractors.
“The registry would offer Hoosiers a free resource to access and determine whether a contractor with whom they plan to do business has opted into a voluntary registry and purchased insurance which serves to protect consumers from contractual violations or deceptive acts,” she says. “It would allow consumers to do their homework before hiring a contractor, and hopefully prevent them from becoming the next victim in a home-repair scam.”