Henderson tree companies accused of price gouging after Hurricane Florence

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Two Kentucky tree removal companies are accused of price gouging in North Carolina during recovery from Hurricane Florence.

North Carolina Attorney General, Joshua Stein, has a lawsuit against Henderson-based Action Tree Pros, Inc. and Premier Landscaping & Lawn Care, LLC.

In the 73-page complaint, Stein details how Action arraigned the removal of just 5 trees and billed homeowners almost $80,000 for the work.

According to Stein, the state’s top law-enforcement officer, Action owner Nick Downey harassed and took advantage of people by price gouging his tree-removal service.

In the complaint, filed in Wake County Superior Court, North Carolina property manager Sherry Kent says Downey estimated $5,000 to remove one tree, but the bill was $10,565.

After this, according to the complaint, Kent asked Downey not to do any more work on her properties.  Text messages show Kent repeatedly asking Downey to stop cutting trees.

According to the complaint Downey continued anyway.

An email shows Downey asking for payment for multiple tree removals, and he threatens to write reviews on Kent’s website.

In the complaint, there is a receipt for another tree removed for more than $23,000.

Stein says it’s a “bait-and-switch,” and called Downey’s work “heartless and illegal.”

Eyewitness News tried to reach Downey on Thursday, visiting two addresses listed online for his business, and his home address in Webster County. No one answered.

According to the complaint, Downey subcontracted tree removal to two other companies, including Premier.

Eyewitness News tried knocked on the door of Premier owner Jeremey Bugg’s house, but no one answered.

Neither Downey nor Bugg answered or returned phone calls.

TRICO Tree Service, LLC. from North Carolina is also listed as a co-defendant in Stein’s complaint. Stein says TRICO owner Tony Anderson, Bugg, and Downey worked together.

Stein says Downey dealt directly with property owners and directed Bugg and Anderson to specific properties to do tree removal work.

Stein has levied a similar price gouging complaint against Scotts Tree Service, an Ohio company. 

The complaint says neither Action nor Premier was registered to do work in the state.

“Each of these cases is a perfect example of why we have a price gouging statute in North Carolina,” said Stein in a news release. “These out-of-state operators inflate their prices to take advantage of people’s vulnerability as they try to cope with the effects of Hurricane Florence.”

Stein has asked a judge to force the tree companies to pay homeowners back and ban them 
from doing work in North Carolina.

According to the Better Business Bureau, there is a customer complaint against Action from a trip to South Carolina after Hurricane Matthew in 2016. The complaint alleges the Action crew didn’t pay rent for their stay.

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(This story was originally published on October 18, 2018)

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