GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Ricky Landon’s clothes dryer was making annoyingly loud sounds.
“Hear that?” Landon asked Target 8 from the laundry room of his southwest Grand Rapids home. “OK, there’s bearings inside there that need to be replaced.”
So, when Landon spotted a coupon for A.S.A.P. Appliance Repair on a bulletin board at a favorite restaurant, he grabbed it.
He called the number and the guy who answered made it to Landon’s house the very same day.
“He goes, ‘I can get them parts,'” recalled Landon, who said he gave the repairman $150 cash up front.
“I trust people, man. I do. I do,” Landon acknowledged with a smile.
He said the man promised to return with the new parts in a week.
That was June 9, more than seven weeks ago.
SEVEN WEEKS LATER, STILL NO FIX
“I called him up like two weeks ago. I said, ‘Where’s my parts and when are you coming to do this?’ and he says, ‘I’ll be there, I’ll be there. Don’t worry about it.’ Well, he never showed up.”
Landon reported back to the folks at Sandi’s Kabob and Grill, the South Division restaurant on whose bulletin board he’d found the A.S.A.P. flyer.
“I walk back into Sandi’s and I tell them, ‘I think this guy has scammed me, ripped me off,'” Landon said.
That’s when Sandi’s realized A.S.A.P. was run by Doug Westen, the same man who’d been accused of scamming people previously under several different business names.
A Sandi’s employee immediately removed Westen’s A.S.A.P. flyers and contacted Target 8 to say, “He’s back at it.”
Our investigators first put out an alert about Westen in January 2020.
At that time, the northern Kent County man was calling his business Aaron’s Appliance Repair, which by the way, had no connection to the company of the same name that rents furniture, electronics and appliances.
‘I THOUGHT I’D NEVER BE TAKEN’
Target 8 showed Landon a picture of Westen to confirm it was him.
“Yep, that’s him. Sure is … Most definitely. Oh my God. I can’t believe it,” Landon said.
He was surprised in part because he was looking at a mug shot to identify the man he’d hired to fix his dryer.
“I thought I’d never be taken,” Landon said. “Honestly, I thought this would never happen to me. I watch this stuff on TV. Honestly, I do.”
Landon was far from the only one to fall for Westen’s pitch.
18 MUG SHOTS, 16 CONVICTIONS, FIVE FOR FRAUD
His record includes 16 convictions stretching back to 1980, including five for fraud, one for burglary, one larceny and three for driving under the influence.
Kent County has 18 mug shots of Westen on file.
In one fraud case, Westen did jail time for scamming a woman with a broken washing machine.
He did two years in prison for taking money from a man whose fridge needed fixing.
He’d met the victim with the broken fridge through a church, though it seems his preferred marketing method is restaurant bulletin boards.
“It is quite shocking that he has been doing this for so long,” said Sgt. Joy Matthews of the Kent County Sheriff’s Department.
“Since pretty much the mid-’90s, our agency alone has investigated Doug Westen for more than 12 different fraud-related complaints. In each of the complaints, it’s pretty much similar things that happen,” said Matthews, noting victims pay Westen to fix appliances and he fails to return to do the work.
Matthews said the department currently has three open fraud complaints against Westen, and detectives are trying to find him.
That’s a difficult task in part because Westen, who has struggled with substance abuse, appears to be transient.
The address he listed when he registered A.S.A.P. with Kent County in October 2020 was 225 Commerce Ave. SW, which is Mel Trotter Ministries, a homeless shelter.
He has not returned multiple messages Target 8 left on his business phone.
NINE BUSINESSES IN TWO DECADES
Records show Westen has registered nine businesses with the Kent County Clerk’s Office over two decades, seven of which started with the letter “A.”
- A.S.A.P. Appliance Repair
- Aaron’s Appliance Repair
- Action Appliance Repair
- A-1 Appliance Repair
- A1 All American Appliance Repair
- A1 Affordable Appliance Repair
- AAA-Quality Appliance Repair
CHECK A BUSINESS’S RECORD FIRST
If you’re looking to hire a repair company, experts urge you to check them out online and through the Better Business Bureau of Western Michigan, which gave one of Westen’s businesses an “F” rating.
The BBB has linked several of his companies in their database, so customers can find reviews even when he renames his businesses.
It’s also recommended that you ask to see the identification of any service workers who visit you at home.
“One thing we always recommend is if you are in need of appliance repair, try to get a good recommendation from friends and family,” Matthews said. “Even on Facebook, I have seen where people ask for a recommendation even from neighbors or just local residents. If you do get the name of a repairman or a business, always do your due diligence and look him up online to make sure they’re good review-wise and good with the Better Business Bureau.”
NO ILL WILL TOWARD WESTEN
The alleged victim from one of Kent County’s open fraud complaints told Target 8 she has no hard feelings toward Westen.
She came across his flyer at a restaurant in Ada, paid him to fix an appliance in her home and says he never returned.
“I pray for him that he gets the help he needs and stops doing this to innocent people,” the woman told Target 8 in a text exchange.
Ricky Landon has no ill will towards Westen either.
But he said while he can afford to lose $150, he worries about other potential victims who cannot.
“I just hope he won’t rip anybody else off,” Landon said.
He’s also still looking for someone to fix his dryer.
“Very frustrating. You can hear this. It’s annoying,” Landon said of the noise his dryer is making.