By CHRIS AGEE
Mineral Wells police issued a warning this week concerning two men believed to have overcharged at least two locals for services rendered.
According to a police source, detectives have already spoken to District Attorney Mike Burns about pursuing an ‘exploitation of the elderly case’ – a third-degree felony – against the individuals.
Police explained a victim in the 300 block of Long Drive, Louise Blackerby, was approached by two men who arrived unannounced in a Chevrolet pickup truck and asked if she had any trees in need of trimming.
Blackerby informed the men she had a property in the 300 block of Beetham Road and inquired about their credentials, police said.
According to the her report, the men claimed to be insured up to $1 million and said they worked for the cities of Mineral Wells and Fort Worth. Police said City Manager Lance Howerton confirmed outside companies do not perform any such work for the city.
The men agreed to charge $3 per cut, police said, and cut between six to eight limbs from trees on the Beetham Road property.
When Blackerby went to pay with $80 in cash, which she assumed would include a tip, the men informed her the job would cost her nearly 10 times that amount, police explained.
Blackerby said she felt intimidated by the two men and eventually wrote them a check for $700.
She said one of them was a big guy, probably more than 6 feet tall.
“He just looked at me like, ‘Well?’” she added.
She said the bill was shocking, though she didn’t think she had an alternative to paying them.
“I’m 83 years old,” she said. “I didn’t know if my heart was going to hold out or not.”
She went directly to her bank in an attempt to stop payment on the check, police added, but it had already been cashed at another bank.
A man police have identified cashed the check in his name, according to reports, and bank records show at least one other such check was cashed for similar services in the amount of $750.
Additionally, police said, the pile of debris was still at the curb as of Thursday, though the cost of services was supposed to include its removal.
Police also noted a neighbor of the Long Drive victim reported the same men stopped at his home and offered to pave his driveway.
Police said they believe one of the men – the one who cashed the check – possesses an Illinois driver’s license.
Authorities said the men are likely hitting small communities, indicating surrounding communities have reported similar incidences