Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Attorney General Koster announces guilty plea in multi-county asphalt-paving scam

                                                                                                 May 1, 2013
                                                                      (Official press release from Missouri General)

Jefferson City, Mo. -- Attorney General Chris Koster today said that Terry Wayne Phelps has pleaded guilty in multiple counties to charges of financial exploitation of the elderly, stealing by deceit, and unlawful merchandising practices for his role in asphalt-paving scams.  Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Knight, Maries County Prosecuting Attorney Terry Daley Schwartze, and Phelps County Prosecuting Attorney John Beger participated in the prosecutions. 

Koster said Phelps has been sentenced to 10 years in prison on seven counts of financial exploitation of the elderly, 10 years on one count of stealing by deceit, and 7 years on four counts of unlawful merchandising practices.  The sentences will be served concurrently.
The multi-county investigation revealed that Phelps was involved with others in concealing the true price consumers would be charged for asphalt work performed, failing to complete work that was started, and misrepresenting the true value of the work that was performed.  In one instance, Phelps defrauded a Vichy, MO, man into paying $56,000 for substandard paving work. 
"Consumers should be very cautious when approached by people selling home-improvement services door-to-door," Koster said.  "Unfortunately, there are always people like Terry Phelps who will take advantage of unsuspecting consumers.  Scammers should be assured that this office will protect consumers and pursue anyone who tried to defraud vulnerable, trusting Missourians out of their hard-earned money."
Koster said that with consumers beginning to focus on spring and summer repairs, they should take the following precautions:
  • Do not pay for work up-front.  Inspect the work and make sure you are satisfied before you pay.  A reasonable down-payment may be required for some projects, but do not pay anything without getting a written contract.  Avoid paying with cash; use a check or a credit card instead.
  • Beware of any contractor who tried to rush you or who comes to your home to solicit work.  If an offer is "only good now or never," find someone else to perform the work.
  • Seek recommendations from friends, neighbors, co-workers and others who have had work performed on their homes in the past. 
  • Do not hire any person without asking for, and checking, references.
  • Get three written estimates for the work, if possible, and compare bids.  Check credentials and contact the Attorney General's Office and the Better Business Bureau to learn about any complaints against a contractor.  Before work begins, make sure you get a written contact detailing all the work to be performed, its costs and a projected completion date.

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