BALTIMORE — A tree trimming company is accused of charging a customer nearly $1,500 for a job they never finished. And instead of doing the work, they sent the customer doctored photos.
Nicole turned to Craigslist to find local professionals to clean-up the yard at her Overlea rental property.
“Something banging into your chimney will wreck the chimney, wreck the roof, we wanted to take care of that so this was high priority for the job,” said Nicole, who did not want to share her last name due to privacy concerns.
She found an ad for Goldman, Levi, and Cohen Tree Service LLC.
“Their listing looked legitimate. They have a web address, street address, said they were fully licensed and insured,” Nicole said.
For $1,800, the company agreed to the job. They were there for three days, and at the end of each day, a company representative would text Nicole photos of the completed work and she would send payment via Venmo.
Nicole paid a total of $1,450 and waited to transfer the final $350 until she visited the property.
When she did, she knew right away, the photos didn't match what she was seeing.
“They were doctored. Apparently, they know how to use Photoshop,” said Nicole.
Below is a photo sent by the company compared to a recent photo of Nicole’s property
“It’s insulting and the time it took them to Photoshop these pictures they could finish the job like a real legitimate company,” Nicole said.
The company’s phone number has been disconnected, no one responded to emails sent by WMAR-2 News’ Mallory Sofastaii, and the business couldn’t be found at the listed address on its website under the name "Treez R' Us."
“We basically paid them a mortgage payment, we lost an entire week of work, we have to have more people come in to try and get this property ready. It shouldn’t be taking away from my family, my family time, the money my husband and I work really hard for,” said Nicole.
And because the business isn’t registered with the state, Nicole has little to no recourse.
“If a licensed tree expert does something wrong, their license can be revoked for a certain period of time,” said Chip Broadwater, the Licensed Tree Expert Compliance and Training Coordinator with the Department of Natural Resources Maryland Forest Service.
Broadwater heads up licensing and compliance for tree experts in Maryland.
“Any kind of tree work which involves trimming, pruning, or removing a tree, if the tree is greater than 20 feet tall, it needs to be done by a licensed Maryland tree expert,” Broadwater said,
And it’s easy to check on the state’s tree expert list. All you need is their name. They should also present this information to any customer.
“Ask for a copy of their tree expert license and a copy of their insurance. If they’re in business, they will have that with them and will be able to provide that easily,” said Broadwater.
Nicole texted the business a few days after they stopped responding to her from a different number. She claimed to be an interested homeowner and asked for their license number stating it’s a matter for public record.
The person responded: “Let me see your birth certificate that’s public also.”
Nicole believes these con artists are back on Craigslist and advertising under a different business name.
Sofastaii also found a number of tree trimming services on Craigslist claiming to be licensed and insured. She texted several of these companies and asked for their license information. They stopped responding.
Broadwater is also advising consumers to ask for references, a written contract, and if the business asks for payment upfront that’s an immediate red flag.
Click here for more information on hiring a licensed tree expert in Maryland.