Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Carmel on the Case: Power Problems
An alert tonight from state and county officials about a South Florida company making claims it could help homeowners reduce their electric costs, instead they got big repair bills. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is On the Case.
WSVN -- The Mejia family of Hialeah has a new electrical panel and big headaches as a result.
Gloria Mejia struggles with English, so her niece helped explain what happened after her uncle got a phone call.
Ofelia Mejia: "They told him that since he was a senior citizen that there would be a savings for him by the government."
The company told Hernan Mejia it would install the new electrical panel for free, which would save big money on their electrical bills, but after the work was done, the family found out Hernan had been tricked into signing a contract for the work and a new credit card, and the card charged for the free work the company promised to do.
Gloria Mejia: "$4,850."
Now the family is fighting the bill with the credit card company, and, on top of that, the new electrical panel didn't work.
Ofelia Mejia: "When she turned on the microwave, the power turned off."
The state says the company, Florida Power and Energy Saver, which operates from this Hialeah office, doesn't have a license to do electrical work.
Bill Tejeda, Department of Business and Professional Regulation: "The company goes out and states they are part of an FPL program that will lower the cost on the electricity for the individuals."
Bill Tejeda is the regional administrator for the department of business and professional regulation.
Bill Tejeda: "They are targeting mostly retired individuals, which is a very big concern for us."
Bill Tejeda: "So far, we have obtained information that there could be a potential of over 700 victims out there because this company has been doing the same thing for over three years."
The president of the company, 63-year-old Alfredo Alarcon was recently arrested by Miami-Dade Police in connection with work done for another senior citizen. He's been charged with grand theft and contracting without a certificate.
Alarcon's out on bond. He turned down a request for an interview, saying his lawyer told him not to talk to anybody. State investigators say more charges are likely, and among the cases being investigated, the Mejias. Gloria says her husband has Alzheimer's disease and was taken advantage of.
Gloria Mejia: "I feel so bad because they used my husband. My husband is sick."
Carmel Cafiero: "And, worse yet, the state says customers like the Mejias are also facing fines for work done without permits and the cost to repair anything that is not up to code."
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