HUDSONVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — Summer brings sun, warmer temperatures, and a scam that’s been going on for years.
It involves solicitors using high-pressure tactics to sell you a high-cost driveway sealing job. Most of the time, they’re using sub-par materials more water than sealer.
The scheme cost a Hudsonville couple $3,700. Ottawa County sheriff’s deputies are now looking for a Louisiana man and a second suspect in connection to the crime.
The homeowners told 24 Hour News 8 the suspects were “quick and smooth” with their sales tactics, but the results are anything but smooth.
“You can see the grass is coming right back up through it, so there was more water than tar,” said the homeowner, who didn’t want to share her name.
She said she came home a week ago to find an unmarked truck parked at her home and two men spaying a black liquid on her driveway. Her husband agreed to the deal.
“They just convinced him that they do this type of work, and they know what they’re doing,” she said.
The two-man crew followed script, telling the homeowner the job was bigger than they originally estimated – giving him a total price tag of $3,700.
Police got a picture of one of the suspects, 27-year-old Dustin Gino Nicholas, from a bank surveillance camera. The Louisiana man allegedly cashed the victims’ check just minutes after leaving their home, before they could cancel it.
“I’d love to get my money back, but from scams I’ve read of before that’s not too possible,” the homeowner admitted.
A day after the case was first reported, Ottawa County detectives were investigating no less than a half-dozen similar complaints. Some of the reports involved watered-down seal coat while others involved actual asphalt.
“These folks tend to be very high pressure. They’ll use the tactic, ‘You better do this. We’ve got this extra. We’ve got to do it now. If you don’t do it now it’s going to be gone and this is a once in a lifetime chance,’” said Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Mark Bennett.
Bennett said all of the cases or suspects do not appear to be related.
Deputies did make an arrest in one recent case.
“But it’s somewhat of a fine line as to if it’s a very bad business deal or a criminal fraudulent business deal,” explained Bennett.
There could be more victims out there. Bennett said in many cases, victims are reluctant to come forward because they’re embarrassed about being scammed.
To avoid becoming a victim, potential customers should:
- Ask for a written estimate, business card or some formal business document.
- Get references.
- Contact the Better Business Bureau to check for reviews and/or complaints tied to the business.
The Hudsonville homeowner who fell victim to the scam also offered up this advice: “Don’t ever do something with someone who just drives in your driveway.”