PASADENA, Texas - It is one of the most expensive repairs you'll make to your home, but Local 2 Investigates found a group posing as roofers, tricking Houston-area homeowners into paying them thousands of dollars for little to nothing.
"I felt like a total fool," 85-year-old Marley Heggen told consumer expert Amy Davis. Heggen is a widowed, retired school teacher who always considered herself pretty savy, until two men showed up at her door one day in January. They offered to clean out her gutters for $20 and then came back with bad news.
"'I'm so sorry,'" Heggen recalls one of the men telling her. "''Your roof ... there are holes in it. The squirrels have been chewing the vents. I almost fell in.'"
A worried Heggen agreed to pay them to make repairs. The men told her they'd use compound to fill the holes and charge her $20 a pound. A half hour later, they said the repairs were complete. Her total bill was $3,200.
"I said, 'I don't think this is right.' I said, 'How could you get 150 pounds up on the roof?' He said, 'Oh, we piped it in.'"
Heggen paid the men with a check. She suspected she'd been duped, but she was too embarrassed to tell anyone until about two weeks later. She filed a report with the Pasadena Police Department and called Ideal Roofing, the company who had replaced her roof 16 years ago.
"I've heard of compound for flooring, but what he used was caulking," explained Ideal Roofing's Jim Hardwick after inspecting Heggen's roof. "The total materials was about two cans of spray paint and about two tubes of caulking ... $20 plus tax is a stretch."
It turns out the check Heggen wrote was the only way to track the so-called roofers. They had asked Heggen to make it out to their secretary. When the woman showed up to Heggen's credit union to cash it, they got her thumb print, identification card and her picture on their security cameras.
KPRC Local 2 stopped by the address on the woman's driver's license and eventually caught up with her husband.
"She was just doing a favor for somebody," explained Mike Castillo. "And these people come out not doing the work."
Castillo claims his wife was no secretary. She agreed to help the men, acquaintances, by cashing the check because they had out-of-state driver's licenses. KPRC Local 2 agreed to keep her name out of the story if they put us in touch with the contractors and returned the money to Heggen.
Castillo stopped by Local 2 with the cash. Davis called the men, but they didn't return the calls.
"Are they hiding right now?" Davis asked Castillo. "Because it should be them returning this money?"
"Exactly," he replied. "You know, they're not here right now. They're in Chicago. What does that tell you?"
Davis delivered the cash to Heggen.
"I've got to give you a hug," Heggen told Davis. "It is so amazing, and I feel you've done the work."
KPRC Local 2 believes the guys who knocked on Heggen's door are travelers. They go from state to state hitting up homeowners, always moving before they're caught. It's why homeowners should never hire a roofer who knocks on a door unsolicited. If a homeowner does let someone go up on their roof, they should at least be outside while they're inspecting it to make sure they aren't damaging the roof.
If you think these two men knocked on your door in early January, Pasadena police would like to hear from you. Give them a call at 713-477-1221.
Texas lawmakers are considering a bill that would require roofers to be licensed by the state. It's an attempt to crack down on unscrupulous contractors.
If you have a news tip or question for KPRC Local 2 Investigates, drop them an e-mail or call their tipline at (713) 223-TIPS (8477). Copyright 2013 by Click2Houston.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.