Worst Milwaukee Contractors of 2012
Carol’s Tours | Beaver Dam, Wis.
Deborah Paul, owner of Carol’s Tours, faces more than five years in prison after she pleaded no contest in October to two felony counts of theft filed by the Wisconsin Department of Justice after nearly 200 would-be customers claimed they had paid a total of more than $270,000 for trips they never got to take.
At press time, DOJ spokeswoman Dana Brueck says Paul was scheduled to be sentenced in January.
Brueck says more than half of Paul’s sentence is likely to be served under extended supervision, and she’ll likely be ordered to pay restitution to her customers, as well as agree to never again be self-employed. The conviction follows an investigation by the DOJ that revealed Paul took payment from customers, including several in suburban Milwaukee, for once-in-a-lifetime dream vacations to locations including Australia and New Zealand, only to use the funds for her family’s personal expenses, according to court records.
Additionally, according to the attorney general’s office, a former employee of Paul’s, Lisa Hopper, pleaded no contest last February to two felony counts related to charges that she embezzled $97,000 from Carol’s Tours. Hopper was sentenced to four years and six months in prison, three years of which was to be served as extended supervision. She was also ordered to serve seven years of probation and to pay restitution totaling more than $70,000 and court costs, and agree to never work as a bookkeeper for any business.
The convictions provide little consolation to the spurned vacationers, including Fond du Lac, Wis., resident Norbert McCormick, who had booked a trip to Canada with Paul after a successful trip with her company to the Southwest. McCormick says that although he was promised a refund for the trip, he’s waited five years for the money and says it’s unlikely he’ll ever see any of it again. “There are no funds available,” he says.
Paul closed her business and filed for bankruptcy in 2008, court records show.
In filing the charges, Brueck says the state considered not only the money Paul had taken from the hopeful travelers for the trips themselves, but also the additional $15,000 for trip insurance paid by some of the consumers, though Paul never purchased the insurance. Several attempts to reach Paul for comment were unsuccessful.
Vivint and Pinnacle Security | Based in Provo and Orem, Utah, respectively
Court records show the Wisconsin AG in September won consent judgments against alarm service companies Vivint and Pinnacle Security, which serve customers nationwide, on charges that they each harmed 70 Wisconsin consumers with misleading and deceptive sales tactics. State officials say consumers complained that the companies’ door-to-door salespeople were overly aggressive and misrepresented pricing plans and contract cancelation information.
Vivint and Pinnacle Security must pay fines and restitution totaling $1.7 million.
A judge ordered Pinnacle to pay fines, restitution and consumer debt cancelation totaling $1,063,500; the judgment against Vivint totaled $663,000.
Out of six reviews in 2012, D-rated Pinnacle received two C’s, a D, and one F review from Milwaukee members; B-rated Vivint received four C’s, two D’s and 16 F’s out of 66 reviews in 2012, two of which landed the company in the Penalty Box.
Vivint spokesman Ian Bell declined comment on the AG judgment. Pinnacle did not return calls. Word of the fines is good news to West Allis resident Marcos Villarreal, who says it took a year and a payout of $1,900 to be rid of Vivint’s service.
B-Clean Home & Corporate Cleaning | West Allis, Wis.
Sussex, Wis., Angie's List member Sharon Ellingson says she purchased two Internet housecleaning coupons from D-rated B-Clean Home in April, but says owner Byron Hoaglan’s work appeared rushed and incomplete. “The bathroom cleaning was not up to par,” she says.
When she decided to try him a second time, she says Hoaglan rescheduled the appointment but never showed. Franksville member Mary Gussick says Hoaglan called her a liar in response to her Angie’s List review about his no-show. The women are two of 13 members who’ve filed F or D reviews on the company since October 2011.
Milwaukee County court records show a judge discharged Hoaglan’s bankruptcy in 2009, with nearly $44,000 owed to creditors; two misdemeanor convictions for issuing threats over the phone in 1998 and violating an order in a domestic abuse case in 2002; and four civil judgments totaling $3,228. Hoaglan didn’t return messages seeking comment.