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[ATG] Local tree trimming company owes steep penalties for ripping off seniors
Start Date: 1/30/2014 All Day
End Date: 1/30/2014
Entry Description

INDIANAPOLIS – Elderly victims of a tree trimming scam could receive refunds for three times the amount they paid, thanks to a new state law and subsequent legal action taken by the Indiana Attorney General’s Office.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller received a default judgment in Marion County against Steve Spaulding and his Indianapolis-based company, Spaulding’s Tree Experts. The company contracted with three elderly victims – two with dementia – for $46,740 and provided minimal or faulty work.

Under the state’s Senior Consumer Protection Act, which took effect July 1, 2013, those caught financially exploiting Hoosiers over 60 years old must pay consumer restitution equal to three times the amount they collected. This means Spaulding owes $140,220 total to its Marion County victims in addition to paying the state $65,962 in civil penalties and investigative costs.  

“This case should serve as a strong deterrent to businesses or individuals looking to profit off of Indiana’s seniors by using intimidation or coercion,” Zoeller said. “Our office will continue to aggressively pursue violators and use all resources available to collect on any restitution owed to consumers.”

According to the state’s lawsuit filed in September of 2013, a 93-year-old homeowner and his daughter declined tree trimming services from the company after being solicited at their home. Spaulding’s Tree Experts returned six days later and convinced the homeowner, who suffers from dementia, to enter into a $6,000 contract. 

The homeowner wrote two checks toward the total, but the company later returned and said the checks were written incorrectly. The homeowner was then convinced into entering into two new contracts totaling $9,500, however the contracts were for the same services as the initial contract.

Ultimately, the company was paid $7,500 and “proceeded to trim a few branches off some trees” and used “incorrect methods and materials.” According to the lawsuit, the company filled a cavity in one of the trees with spray foam insulation and covered the area with black spray paint.

Spaulding’s Tree Experts violated the Senior Consumer Protection Act, Deceptive Consumer Sales Act, Home Improvements Contract Act and the Home Solicitation Sales Act.

Consumers who feel ripped off can file complaints with the Attorney General’s Office by visiting www.indianaconsumer.com or by calling 1-317-232-6330. The website also provides information about what a home improvement contract should include, how to find a contractor and when to be skeptical of door-to-door solicitors.

Zoeller thanked Deputy Attorney General Mark Snodgrass for his work on the case and dedication to the Consumer Protection Division.

-30-


Contact Information:
Name: Erin Reece
Phone: 317.232.0168
Email: erin.reece@atg.in.gov
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Entry Type:
Press Release
Entry Category:
  • Announcements
  • IN.gov Category:
  • Government
  • Agency Name
    Attorney General

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