State AG wins suit against tree-removal company accused of price gouging
NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Attorney General Josh Stein says a tree-removal company accused of price gouging after Hurricane Florence won’t be allowed to collect exorbitant fees it charged to victims in North Carolina.
The consent judgment bans Ohio-based Scotts Tree Service and defendants Scott Lacey and Randy Shannon from performing tree removal work in North Carolina, prohibits them from collecting $153,100 in outstanding invoices from North Carolina consumers, and orders them to pay $20,000 in restitution, civil penalties, and fees.
Stein announced in October that his office had filed a lawsuit against the company.
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 its investigation of Scotts Tree Service, Stein’s office found 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/.
After Hurricanes Michael and Florence devastated North Carolina in 2018, Attorney General Stein brought seven lawsuits against 22 defendants under North Carolina’s price gouging statute. He has obtained eight judgments against 17 defendants, including a $274,000 settlement that was one of the largest price gouging settlements in the department’s history. The Attorney General’s Office has won more than $725,000 in these judgments, including:
- $242,500 in consumer restitution
- $392,500 in money companies are barred from collecting from homeowners
- $94,500 in penalties and fees