GREAT FALLS — A growing number of Great Falls residents are expressing concerns over unfinished business, saying they shelled out hundreds, even thousands, of dollars for poorly done or even incomplete driveway asphalt work.
Russ McNee has lived in his southwest Great Falls home for 10 years. He responded to a Facebook ad for driveway sealing services. He said for $3,000, the company promised three coatings, but only one was applied.
“They wanted cash. I had cash and gave it to them. I asked for a receipt, they said they were out, their receipt book was empty,” said McNee. “But they’d have me one the next day when they were going to come back and do the next coating and I haven’t seen them since.”
Don Petrini paid $800 for similar work, but quickly had his doubts. “The deal they had on their facebook page looked good,” said Petrini. “When he came here, he was a fast talker. Sounded like they were going to stand up to their word, he said we’ve got references and stuff so I kind of took them for granted.”
Petrini says Western General Contracting was hired to do the work and he dealt with Barton Gorman. The company business card shows an incomplete address. Our calls to their number were not returned, and a contractor certificate search with the state labor department came up empty.
The same was true for BG Sealcoating, the company McNee dealt with. He says they were represented by father and son Bartley and Barton Gorman. He recognized Bartley Gorman’s mug shot from the Department of Corrections in North Dakota, where, along with Wyoming, he’s been banned from doing contracting work.
Emily Nichols is a compliance investigator with the Montana Office of Consumer Protection. She says for customers concerned about contractors; help is available.
“If someone has had this type of work done but the work is shoddy and they’re not happy with it and they’re having a real tough time getting the contractor to agree to come back and make right what they felt was wrong, they can complain to our office, we will reach out to the contractor and attempt to be the go-between,” said Nichols.
Nichols says the process can be taken a step further in the case of illegal actors whose practices are affecting Montanans.
“We can get these complaints from affected consumers and usually spot a pattern with the behavior with the business or the person reporting to be a business and if the situation calls for it, open an investigation and prosecute or take some form of regulatory action,” said Nichols.
It remains to be seen whether Don or Russ will get their money back. But at the very least, they hope others can avoid being scammed.
The Montana Department of Justice's Office of Consumer Protection offers some tips to avoid becoming a victim of a scam.
They say be wary of solicitors and don't give money to someone who solicits you first. You're under no obligation to pay money up front for services. If someone demands money up front, it's an immediate red flag. Licensed contractors in Montana must have a physical address and not a post office box or drop box.
To file a complaint with the Montana Office of Consumer Protection, click here.