Worst Dallas-Fort Worth Contractors of 2012

Worst Dallas-Fort Worth Contractors of 2012

Aftermath Inc. | Fort Worth, Texas

Already grieving the death of his stepbrother, who committed suicide, Jeff Mayes of Emory, Texas, says he endured another shock after hiring biohazard remediation company Aftermath Inc. in Fort Worth, Texas, to clean the scene. Despite giving him a verbal estimate of about $3,000, Aftermath’s final bill came to more than $31,000 for two days of work. “I don’t understand why I am being charged an amount that I was not informed about. It’s not right,” Mayes says in his written complaint filed last February with the Texas attorney general, one of seven complaints the AG received against the Illinois-based company, which operates in 48 states.

In May, seven other Texas families facing similar situations joined Mayes in suing Aftermath in the District Court of Dallas County. The families accuse the company of violating the Deceptive Trade Practices Act and fraudulently charging fees three to 10 times above the initial estimate, causing the victims’ insurance to deny coverage, court documents show.

Marquette Wolf, an attorney representing the families, says Aftermath preys on families in moments of vulnerability. When neither they nor their insurance company pays the bills, Aftermath sometimes files liens against their homes, according to court records. “You can’t be this wrong, this consistently,” Wolf says of Aftermath’s estimates and actual bills. “They are despicable.” An Aftermath attorney, John Perten, issued a company statement that claims the lawsuit is inaccurate and unfair. “We are confident that the facts will show that the plaintiffs’ claims are wrong,” he says.

The Texas AG also is investigating the company for violations of state law, and filed a “civil investigative demand” in May, which demands that Aftermath produce a long list of documents related to its work in Texas. AG spokesman Thomas Kelley declined to comment. Previously, the Ohio AG investigated Aftermath for overbilling beyond the initial estimate, state records show. Ohio’s AG found that Aftermath failed to comply with the state’s Consumer Sales Practices Act and Home Solicitations Sales Act, according to the documents, and issued an order in 2010 for “assurance of voluntary compliance,” requiring the company to pay $15,000 and follow the law. Ohio AG spokesman Mark Moretti says four complaints were filed with his office prior to the order and three since, including one in 2012.

Larry Duncan, Transmission Shop | Grand Prairie, Texas

Following a crash, Angelia Smith of Mesquite, Texas, says her Pontiac Grand Prix’s transmission gave her trouble, so she searched for a local repair shop and chose the Transmission Shop in Grand Prairie, Texas, based on its website, which advertised its BBB accreditation and low prices. In September 2011, she says she agreed to let owner Larry Duncan tow the car to his shop for free diagnosis. Smith says Duncan removed the transmission and engine before she agreed to any work and has since refused to release the car unless she authorizes more than $1,200 in charges, plus undisclosed storage fees. “It’s a scam,” Smith says.

Smith complained to the Texas attorney general — one of a dozen complaints against Duncan that the AG received since 2003 — and filed a civil lawsuit in the District Court of Dallas County, accusing him of fraud and violating the state’s Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act. She wants the vehicle returned or payment for the car and $75,000 in damages, court records show. Smith says she now plans to seek a default judgment, following delays due to court officials’ inability to serve Duncan.

Denton County, Texas, court documents show several judgments against Duncan and his former company, 24 Hour Auto Repair. Consumer Munis Syed of Houston says he won a $3,200 judgment against Duncan in 2008 after he found 24 Hour Repair online and shipped his transmission to be repaired. But the company never fixed it, he says, and he’s yet to receive any money from Duncan. “They quote you a smaller price, then eventually it keeps going up and up,” Syed says. “It’s a very dishonest business.”

Smith’s lawsuit indicates Duncan works under numerous business names, including Nationwide Transmissions, Transmission/Engine Shop and Transmission One, but Secretary of State records show only two companies registered by Duncan: Einstein Transmission Repair in Grand Prairie and Einstein Auto Sales in McKinney, Texas, both formed in 2010 and both “tax forfeited” as of February 2012 for failure to file a franchise tax report or pay franchise taxes. Duncan didn’t return messages for comment.

Arkidus Home Protection | Miami, Fla.

When Angie's List member Joanne Richards’ refrigerator started leaking in August, she expected the home warranty she purchased in April from then-highly rated Arkidus Home Protection to cover its repair. “I called and kept getting a busy signal,” the Coppell, Texas, resident says of her 20 failed attempts to reach Arkidus. Her F review and unanswered request for a $470 refund is one of 23 Penalty Box cases from members in 12 states that received no response from the Miami-based company in 2012.

Angie's List members allege Arkidus, which received 50 F’s and five D’s since May, failed to provide promised services, didn’t respond to phone calls and emails and never provided promised refunds. In an email to Angie’s List Magazine, owner Reinaldo “Ray” Berges says Arkidus is out of business but consumers can email him for refunds. “Any unresolved issues with clients will be handled,” he says.

The Florida Department of Financial Services confirmed it’s investigating Arkidus, and it issued a consumer advisory in August. The Texas Real Estate Commission says Arkidus isn’t licensed to sell home warranties in Texas.

DFW Stoneworks | Plano, Texas

Angie's List member Mike Ridgley of Coppell, Texas says he hired owner Ryan Morgan last spring to install granite kitchen countertops for $5,000, but the crew did shoddy work, including installing the countertops in a way that prevented his dishwasher door from closing. His F review, one of four DFW received in 2012, landed the D-rated company in the Penalty Box.

Morgan’s incorporated business name, Ryan William Consulting, is listed as “not in good standing” by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts for failure to meet franchise tax requirements, state records show. Also, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry filed a complaint with the AG’s office in July, alleging DFW falsely advertised itself online as a NARI member. DFW has since corrected its website. Morgan didn’t return messages for comment.


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Comments

Carly Cane

Subject: Confused

If this is about the worst contractors in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, why is Miami on this list?

A. Harvey

Subject: contractor misdeeds

Contractors often use mechanics liens to pressure property owners to pay bills, even when those bills are improper, sometimes even by double-billing. I dealt with one in California who had double billed me several times, always assuring me it would be credited against other coming billings. Never happened. Then he demanded more money.and threatened to take my property away from me through a mechanics lien. I went to the sheriff's office, filed a criminal extortion charge against him. I included a copy of that charge with a complaint to the state's Contractor Licensing Board. That contractor reversed course very quickly and settled with me without further problem. I believe that hastened his demise although his son carries on the business. That he was also a member of the Motion Picture Director's Guild should have tipped me that he was not that well attuned to construction.

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