WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Anne Smith knew she was part of a price gouging scheme when her tree service kept raising the price of her tree removal by thousands of dollars after Hurricane Florence.
Smith agreed to have A1 Tree Service remove three trees from her yard as a safety precaution after Hurricane Florence. They initially told her the estimate would be $4,000. That number was then raised to $7,000. Her final bill ended up being $12,000.
“When I asked about the bill they said ‘well it was a lot more complicated than we thought it was going to be so that’s why it was more expensive’ and they told me not to worry, my insurance would cover it,” said Smith.
However, Smith’s insurance company told her they would not pay for tree removal.
The company asked for two separate checks, each for $6,000 because they are easier to cash in. Smith wrote both checks, but immediately regretted it.
“I wrote the checks, I went to bed that night annoyed with myself, woke up the following morning really annoyed with myself because I knew that I had been taken advantage of,” said Smith.
She called her bank and cancelled one of the checks and called the Attorney General’s office to file a lawsuit against against Alva Wilson Lewis of Lexington, who does business under the names A1 Tree & Storm Relief, A1 Tree and Storm Damage Relief, and Big Al & Sons Tree Service. Within a week of her meeting with the Attorney General, there was an injunction with the tree company, preventing them from doing any more business.
According to a release from Attorney General Josh Stein, Lewis is barred from conducting any tree removal or storm recovery work in North Carolina and is required to pay $6,000 in restitution to Smith and $20,000 in fines.
Lewis’ company has no relation to A-1 Tree Service, LLC out of Hampstead.