State AG wins judgment against tree-removal company accused of price gouging

State AG wins judgment against tree-removal company accused of price gouging

RALEIGH, N.C. (WECT) - State Attorney General Josh Stein announced that a tree-removal company accused of price gouging following Hurricane Florence will be barred from collecting exorbitant fees it charged to victims in North Carolina, including Castle Hayne.

The consent judgment bans Ohio-based Scotts Tree Service and defendants Scott Lacey and Randy Shannon from performing tree removal work in the state, prohibits them collecting $153,100 in outstanding invoices, and orders them to repay $20,000 in restitution, civil penalties, and fees.

Stein announced that his office had filed a lawsuit against the company during an October stop in Wilmington.

Homeowners in Castle Hayne alleged that Lacey, who owns Scotts Tree Service, and Shannon, its employee, billed them $14,500 to remove two fallen trees without first discussing or getting agreement on the price.

Stein’s lawsuit alleged that Scotts Tree Service had one of the homeowners sign a statement of work to be done and later filled in the document with the $14,500 price, which the homeowner had never agreed to pay.

After the homeowners refused to pay this invoice, Scotts Tree Service sent the invoice to a bill collector, the co-defendant Goldberg & Donovan, Inc., a Massachusetts company. Stein reached a $15,000 settlement with Goldberg & Donovan and its proprietors, Stephen and Amy Lombardi, in May.

During the investigation of Scotts Tree Service, Stein’s office discovered evidence that numerous other North Carolinians may have also been price gouged by the company. The company’s invoices to those consumers were cancelled as part of the consent judgment.

“As North Carolinians in eastern North Carolina work to recover from damage caused by Hurricane Dorian, I urge them to be vigilant of price gougers,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “If you think you have been the victim of a price gouging scam, please report it to my office. As this post-Florence case demonstrates, we will not abide scammers who try to take advantage of this disaster.”

North Carolina’s price gouging law is currently in effect after Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency for Hurricane Dorian.

People can report potential price gouging by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or by filing a complaint at https://ncdoj.gov/file-a-complaint/price-gouging/.

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