Tree cutting service accused of targeting seniors

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Upset viewers call 12 after they claim a local tree cutting company is taking advantage of elderly customers. NBC12 caught up some of the customers and has tips on how to select a reputable tree cutting service.

Former J. Murphy Tree Service customer, Alan Brown, said "He sent a crew here to do it without my okay." Brown, 88, is fit enough to do his own yard work -- but decided to get a little help with trimming some trees, so he hired J. Murphy Tree Service.

"I gave him a check before he was finished because he had treated me right before, I trusted him," he said.

The company did some work to his property in the past -- Brown was happy with the service -- but this time was different.

"He was supposed to clean it up but he didn't," Brown said. He paid $2,700 for trees to be trimmed and removed. He says Murphy trimmed the trees -- but didn't remove all the debris as promised.

He also claims workers attempted to do work he didn't request. Another problem, he claims Murphy's workers broke branches and then tried to charge him for it.

"I am a little bit peeved that he'd take advantage, I have been in business, I have taught business and I know business principals and a man's word should be bond," Brown said.

Brown says he will never hire Murphy again -- he just wants the workers to finish the job he paid for.

"I called him and said when are you going to pick up this brush, he said when I get around to it. I didn't like that attitude, that's when I went to the Better Business Bureau," Brown said.

J. Murphy has an "F" rating with the Better Business Bureau. Complaints have been filed going back to 2003 -- including excessive charges, people not being happy with the service and claims that seniors are being targeted.

One elderly couple was charged over $20,000 for work done by J. Murphy. They were too ashamed to talk on camera -- but concerned family members said,they feel J. Murphy took advantage of the couple and charged too much.

"We did call Mr. Murphy, we were able to speak with him for I think under two minutes when the call was discontinued. He discontinued the call and we have not been able to reach him again since," said Barbara Homiller, with the Better Business Bureau.

The BBB couldn't find him -- so we went looking for him to get some answers. We ran into his workers but never caught up with Murphy.

NBC12 did call J. Murphy but he hung up the phone on us, so, we went to the address listed on his business card. All across the property are signs that say that say no trespassing, there is one sign that caught our attention, it says I don't call 9-1-1, and there is an image of gun.

While we were looking for J. Murphy -- we ran into another unhappy customer, Ruth Schnetzka.

"It was quite a few thousand dollars," she said.

Gray Hall: Do you think it was worth it?

"Well, he did do what he said, as far as the trees, but they left a mess and were going to talk away," she said.

We asked Brown how felt Murphy would respond to the allegations.

"I think he is probably upset that there is trouble for him," he said.

J. Murphy does not have a license with the state -- so we checked with the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulations -- it's the agency that regulates contractors in the state.

Spokesperson, Mary Broz-Vaughn says Murphy is not required to have a license. "Anything that involves excavation, requires a license, anything that is just trimming the tree, even chopping it down to the ground doesn't require a state license," she said.

While not all tree cutting services are required to have a license, the state says many of them still get one. Consumer advocates say dealing with a contractor with a license is your safest option.

Brown admits he was too trusting, but still wants the work finished. He tells us, I am just hoping that he comes out and he will keep his word that he will pick it up."

When it comes to tree cutting services, like anything else, the experts say get several estimates, check references and look for complaints filed with the BBB. Another tip, don't feel rushed to get the job done -- before you hand over your cash, do your research.

Here are two helpful websites:

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