Police: Tree trimmer out on bond for scamming strikes again - 19 Action News|Cleveland, OH|News, Weather, Sports

Police: Tree trimmer out on bond for scamming strikes again

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Andre Johnson was already arrested once for scamming unsuspecting clients. According to police, he was back at it as soon as he posted bond. (Source: Shelby County Sheriff's Office) Andre Johnson was already arrested once for scamming unsuspecting clients. According to police, he was back at it as soon as he posted bond. (Source: Shelby County Sheriff's Office)
According to the affidavit of complaint, Johnson swindled a 66-year-old woman into thinking her tree was rotten. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5) According to the affidavit of complaint, Johnson swindled a 66-year-old woman into thinking her tree was rotten. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)
MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC) - A tree trimmer already arrested once for scamming unsuspecting clients is back at it again now that he's out on bail, police say.

Andre Johnson is back in jail and what police say he did angers arborist Wesley Hopper.

"It's upsetting, yeah. It affects our whole industry," Hopper said. "It makes us look bad. It's kinda like somebody impersonating a police officer."

According to the affidavit of complaint, Johnson swindled a 66-year-old woman into thinking her tree was rotten. He intimidated her into giving him $8,300 after he cut it down. Police say when he did this, he was already out on bond for doing the same thing to someone else.

On February 17, WMC Action News 5 caught up with a woman after she nearly lost $4,600 in a similar swindle to Johnson and his siblings.

"It's something you never think will happen to you and it does," she said.

WMC Action News 5's Nick Kenney stopped by Johnson's listed address that had a tree stump on the road and tree debris in the backyard. The man who was sitting outside went inside when Kenney arrived. The man didn't answer the door.

"Never ever hire a door knocker," advised Hopper, Urban Forestry. "Do not hire anybody who knocks on your door offering you a service. Never ever pay anybody before the job is complete."

Hopper also suggests getting three estimates before choosing a contractor, work off of referrals, and do your research.

Johnson's bond is set at $20,000. He is scheduled to appear in court Friday.

What can you do?

WMC Chief Consumer Investigator's checklist for finding a reputable contractor:

1. The Better Business Bureau. You should still start with the bureau. Build a list of contractors who are listed as "BBB-accredited" and carry at least an "A" rating. BBB-accredited businesses automatically agree to arbitration in the matter of consumer complaints -- and that arbitration is binding.

2. Your State Contractors Board. Depending on the type and cost of your job, your state may require the contractor to hold an active state contractor's license. If you cannot verify the licensure status of the contractor, drop that company from your list, no matter what its BBB rating. Also, just because a contractor is licensed in one Mid-South state doesn't necessarily mean it is licensed in another Mid-South state. Mid-South states recognize reciprocal licenses only in certain conditions.

  In Tennessee:  Tennessee Board of Licensing Contractors

  In Mississippi:  Mississippi State Board of Contractors

  In Arkansas:  Arkansas Contractors Licensing Board

3. Get 3-5 Estimates. Once you've assembled a list of highly-rated and properly credentialed contractors, insist on estimates from each of them.

4. Verify Insurance. Ask the contractors to provide proof of insurance. According to Angie's List, contractor's insurance typically falls into one of two categories:

LIABILITY: covers property damage and injuries caused by the contractor's work.

WORKERS COMPENSATION: covers workers injured on the job on your property, regardless of fault.

5. Verify Bonding. Most states require contractors to carry a surety bond. The consumer can file a claim against that bond with the bonding company should the contractor fail to complete the job, fail to pay the on-site workers or fail to pay for materials. Ask the contractors to provide either proof of bonding or the contact information of the bonding company, then verify the bond with that company.

6. Check Your City's/County's Requirements. Some municipalities require contractors to carry additional credentials. Crittenden County, AR, for example, allows a privilege license for contractors who perform small jobs for less than $20,000, but they must carry an Arkansas contractor's license for jobs above $20,000. Make sure the contractor is cleared to pull building permits, electrical permits, plumbing permits, etc. with your city and/or county.

7. Make Your Choice, But Keep Records. Keep copies of your contract, licenses, proof of insurance, proof of bonding and any additional requirements. Consider keeping a photo or video "diary" of the construction's progress.

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