Thursday, August 21, 2008

Driveway Repair Scammers Bilk 87-Year-Old Man Out Of $13,000 In Provo, Utah; Could Be The Infamous "Travelers" At Work Again

Update August 27th: Trucks belonging to Landmark Paving were impounded in relation to this scheme. See updated post HERE.

A crew of driveway repair scammers bilked an 87-year-old stroke survivor out of $13,000 over a two-day period in Provo, Utah. Yes, they actually did some work, but the work was shoddy and they grossly overcharged the man, capitalizing on his advanced age and medical infirmity. Full story reported by KTVX Channel 4.

The victim's name is Bill. The scammers came to his door and offered him a "driveway repair special" - but valid only on that day. But before Bill could give an answer, the crew had removed the machinery from their trailer and spent two hours applying a fresh coat of asphalt over his pocked and broken cement driveway. Then they charged him $7,000 cash, and drove him to the bank to get it.

Realizing they had themselves a "live one", they returned the next day with "sealer" to apply to the driveway. Only the "sealer" was actually a couple of bags of cement, which they sprinkled on top of the asphalt, then hosed it down to "set" it. They charged him an additional $6,000 and, once again, drove him to the bank to get it.

By this time, Bill realized he'd been had, and called police. Bill says that there are some days when he's sharp, and other days when he's not. He concluded he wasn't sharp on those two days. KTVX news video embedded below:

Doug Watson, the president of CMT Engineering, came out to inspect the job at the behest of KTVX, and immediately declared it a rip-off. His company inspects many of the road jobs around Utah. “I don’t know why they put down cement; the cement will just flake off", said Watson. He also said the asphalt was poorly applied and rolled and it needs to be sealed with the proper slurry. But he said the cement film makes it impossible for the slurry to soak into the asphalt. Bottom line--the driveway will probably only last a couple years before it needs to be replaced again. Watson estimates a legitimate company would have only charged $2,000 or so to repave Bill's driveway.

But while Provo police call it a crime, there's no paper trail, since the driveway scammers gave no written estimate, left no business card, and provided no receipt upon receiving the money. Nevertheless, Provo Police Captain Cliff Argyle is continuing to investigate, since his detectives did recover some physical evidence. A bulletin has been issued to other Utah police departments. Capt. Argyle believes the crooks are targeting the elderly and they’re still out there.

Advice proffered includes advising adult children to keep an eye on their elderly parents and make sure they are informed about such scams and equipped to deal with them. Also ask questions of any contractor who offers an unsolicited service or product. Check to see if they're licensed, bonded, and insured. If they offer a special "today only" deal, it's usually a red flag that they are not on the level. If you're suspicious, take down the company name and check them out with the Better Business Bureau.

Analysis: No physical description of the scammers was provided. They could be illegal aliens, or they could be part of a group called the "Travelers". Rick Ross discusses the Travelers at length HERE. The Travelers, mostly Irish, roam the nation much of the year, working as painters, roofers, sealers, and pavers. Their world is deliberately isolated and highly secretive. Not all Travelers are scammers, but a substantial percentage are.

Typically, a Traveler paving crew performs work that looks OK at first. But usually, they've applied such a thin layer of asphalt that it starts to crumble in a few months, and by that time the contractors are long gone. Sometimes they get paid up front and disappear after starting work.

The Travelers came to America during the Irish potato famine of the 19th century. Similar nomadic people from England and Scotland also came here, and all made their living trading livestock, selling wares and plying trades. Today, estimates of the Traveler population vary from 20,000 to 100,000. The last time the Travelers made national news was in 2002, when Madelyne Toogood was caught beating her child in an Indiana parking lot. In August 2006, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a story about Traveler scamming activity in Pittsburgh and other eastern cities. And on August 21st, 2008, the Mason (OH) Pulse-Journal also ran a story about such scams.

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