Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Carmel on the Case: Power Play
A warning from state investigators tonight after an elderly woman was allegedly tricked out of nearly $4,000. Investigators say a local company may have claimed to be FPL as a way to gain her trust. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero with this special assignment report: Power Play.
WSVN -- Who wouldn't want to reduce their electric bill? Eighty-two-year-old Elvira Moll did.
Dennis Moll: "The call that she got, they said they were FPL, and they were doing this survey to see how much everybody was spending on electricity."
Elvira doesn't speak English, so her son Dennis is speaking for her. He says workers came to his mom's Hialeah home, and she let them in thinking they were from FPL. They replaced her electrical box and the breakers.
Dennis Moll: "All this time, she is believing it's FPL."
Carmel Cafiero: "And that it's free?"
Dennis Moll: "And that it's free."
But there was nothing free about this deal. Elvira was shocked when she got a new credit card in the mail with a $38,000 balance.
Dennis Moll: "She was in her room crying, all upset. She was just now trying to blame herself. She was concerned about the money that she owed, where she was gonna get this money?"
Dennis says somehow the company opened up a credit card in his mother's name. When he complained, it sent him this bill which shows a $3,800 charge to replace the electrical panel. That was bad enough, but then Dennis says he discovered no permit had been pulled.
Dennis Moll: "Now, I don't know if this electrical work is really done correctly."
State investigators believe the work was done by this company, Home Improvement Group and Management llc. It operates from this Hallandale office. The state says it has no license to do electrical work. We noticed two men sitting in a Hummer outside the office.
I was looking for the company's manager. A check of state records shows Oscar Sancho as the registered agent and manager of the company.
Carmel Cafiero: "Good morning, are you Oscar Sancho?"
First Man: "No."
Carmel Cafiero: "No, you're not? Are you Oscar Sancho?"
Second Man: "No."
Carmel Cafiero: "You work for him?"
The men had little to say, but the driver did take my business card.
Carmel Cafiero: "Will you have him call me. We have questions, tell him, for a story we are working on."
No one from the company ever called.
Carmel Cafiero: "Do either one of you own or operate this company?"
Carmel Cafiero: "You're just workers, employees?"
Worker: "I'm sorry, what's that mean?"
The state says the man at the wheel is Oscar Sancho.
Carmel Cafiero: "Can you identify this man?"
Bill Tejeda: "Ah, the man on the right, according to our investigation, is Oscar Sancho."
Bill Tejeda, the regional director of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation says his office is investigating what happened to Elvira Moll.
Bill Tejeda: "We are looking into allegations of unlicensed contracting, specifically electrical contracting without a license."
The state also wants to know how a credit card was opened in the elderly widow's name. Tejeda says Sancho agreed to meet with a state investigator but never showed up.
Bill Tejeda: "It's a very active investigation right now."
FPL meanwhile says this is not the first time the company's name has been used without authorization.
Mayco Villafana, FPL: "So far what we can tell is that they're not one of our vendors."
FPL says homeowners can easily check to see if a company is associated with the utility.
Mayco Villafana: "Call our customer service line, which is right on the bill that they receive and ask questions."
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation