Landscaper accused of abandoning projects

August 18, 2012 1:23:45 AM PDT
A landscaper in the South Bay is accused of abandoning projects and leaving homeowners angry and heartbroken. 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney followed the trail of accusations.

7 On Your Side was first alerted when a contest winner said the landscape makeover she won was never awarded. It turns out there may be other victims as well, some who paid the contractor thousands of dollars.

Lorelei Zermani Poyntz had never won anything in her life when she submitted a photo to win an ugly backyard contest. But she ended up winning a $9,000 garden makeover for her San Mateo home from Wemco Landscapes.

Eleven months later, Zermani Poyntz feels her backyard remains as appealing as an abandoned lot on a neglected street.

"If this was an advertising ploy, that just really disappoints me," she said.

Zermani Poyntz didn't pay anything to enter the contest, but 7 On Your Side has learned other paying customers of Wemco have seen their projects stall out as well.

"I paid them $27,000 and this is what I have to show for it so far," San Jose resident Mike Dinh said.

Dinh says the work on his home was scheduled to be completed in one month. Five months later, materials are left scattered all over the yard, the sharp pointed end of screws are exposed and their back door leads to an incomplete deck and a big drop. The Dinhs say all this poses a potential danger. The situation forced the family to cancel their young children's birthday parties. The kids are disappointed.

"He was like, 'Mom, you promised me. Why? Why, I don't understand,'" Chaupha Ngo said.

The Contractors State License Board is expressing serious concerns about Wemco.

"We have a number of complaints that have been filed against them, a few of them in the last couple of weeks," board spokesperson Rick Lopes said. "There's concern on our part of his ability to continue to work at this point if he's not completing jobs."

The company has been stripped of its license for letting its worker's compensation insurance expire and failing to pay a $3,700 small claims judgment.

Wemco has since paid that judgment, and says it is in the process of renewing its worker's comp insurance.

A spokesperson for the family-run business told 7 On Your Side he takes full responsibility for the half completed work, saying, "We should have gotten it done. I'm not going to dispute that."

He says as soon as he gets his license back, he'll complete the work.

Some of his customers have heard these promises before.

"They're laughing with our money right now; all we want is our backyard done so we can share this home with our family," Dinh said

To protect yourself, state regulators suggest always get all promises in writing including the start and end dates and never pay more than 10 percent or $1,000 upfront, whichever is less. Also, don't pay the balance until all work is completed.

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