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TAMPA, Florida -- Eight-thousand dollars for a clogged toilet, $1,600 for a clogged sink, and a customer being told their pipes have collapsed when it isn't true -- it's these incidents that have prompted a state investigation into Plumbing Rescue.
The 10 News Investigators first told you about allegations against the company in May. Now more homeowners are coming out to say they have been victims.
In May, octogenarian Peggy Mister explained that she paid more than $8,000 for a clogged toilet and Plumbing Rescue said it needed to do more work.
"If you think about it, it would have been almost $20,000 when I was finished," Mister told us.
Frank Stein, who had the company come out to fix his overflowing shower, said he feels liked he was "really set up."
"They wanted a thousand dollars a call," said former employee Roy Stacey. "The main objective was to up-sell every single job, and obviously make them the most money."
The 10 News Investigators checked state records and found that the State Division of Insurance Fraud had multiple complaints against the company, alleging deceptive practices. On top of that, there were allegations of unnecessary repairs, and reports of victims accusing the company of using scare tactics and lying about plumbing repairs.
We talked with Sandra Bowen, who said Plumbing Rescue was doing a repair job for her parents, Odessa and Harold Janida, when our report confirmed suspicions she had.
"...and then I saw your report- perfect timing," said Bowen. "I mean how many people out there they are doing this to?"
Bowen was suspicious that Plumbing Rescue was taking advantage of her parents.
"They're just selling them thousands of dollars of work they don't need," she remembered thinking of the pricey jobs.
Her parents were billed more than $8,000 to unclog a toilet, just like Peggy Mister, the woman from our report in May. Same problem, same price.
Plumbing Rescue told Bowen's parents the pipes were collapsed- a story we'd heard before.
However, after seeing our investigation and finding out permits were never pulled for the job, Bowen hired another plumber, Phil Harp from Dunedin Plumbing, who said there was nothing wrong with the pipes.
We asked Harp if Plumbing Rescue was wrong when they told the Janidas their pipes collapsed, and it seems he happened to agree with their daughter Sandra's suspicions.
"They're not collapsed," Harp told us. "People say stuff that's not what it is to take advantage of the elderly. That's just not right."
We saw the Plumbing Rescue techniques first hand when our producer called to say her garbage disposal didn't work, though in reality, all we did was flip a switch in the breaker box.
Plumbing Rescue technician David Craft, unaware of our ongoing investigation, told her the "garbage disposal was shot."
However, when we came in and showed him there was nothing wrong except a flipped breaker, Craft immediately defended himself and the company.
"We're not looking to make a bunch of money," he said.
"There's nothing wrong with this garbage disposal, so if we hadn't been here, she would have spent $150, $175 bucks on a garbage disposal she didn't need," we reminded him.
"I should have checked that (the breaker box)," Craft finally admitted. "You're 100 percent correct. I have nothing to say about that."
And while people who have had a problem with Plumbing Rescue are obviously upset with the company, they say they're also frustrated that despite reports from the Division of Insurance Fraud to both the Hillsborough and Pinellas State Attorney's offices, no one has been prosecuted yet.
"I don't understand that. I'm frustrated," said Plumbing Rescue customer Suzanne Urash.
Urash called Plumbing Rescue to unclog her kitchen sink after seeing an ad for $79 repairs. She was billed more than $1,600, but the company botched the job and the cabinets flooded.
Urash refused to pay, and instead sued Plumbing Rescue.
"The judge awarded damages of my cabinet and attorney fees of $5,320," she told us.
Facetiously, we asked, "And they immediately wrote you a check, right?"
"No, obviously not,"she said.
Suzanne Urash still doesn't have her money, and the owner of Plumbing Rescue, Jim Myers, said it's not high-priority for him. Meanwhile, Myers said he is correcting problems with the service people, and has provided training on how to operate ethically, but some employees don't always follow what he tells them.
Finally, Myers alleges that 10 News is conspiring with the Department of Insurance Fraud to get him because he owes our station thousands of dollars in an unpaid advertising bill. That is not true. The news department doesn't work with the sales department or collections department, and we had no idea Plumbing Rescue owed the station money until Myers told us.
In addition to operating in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties, the Plumbing Rescue website says they also "Rescue you from plumbing emergencies" in Hernando, Manatee, Sarasota and Polk Counties.
Story provided by: www.wtsp.com