For Immediate Release:
(RALEIGH) Attorney General Josh Stein today was granted temporary restraining orders against two companies involved in separate price gouging lawsuits he filed involving tree removal and flood repair in eastern North Carolina after Hurricane Florence. These mark the fourth and fifth lawsuits Attorney General Stein has filed in response to price gouging after Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina in September 2018.
The first lawsuit alleges that Georgia-based tree removal service Georgia Tree Company LLC excessively charged an Onslow County homeowner $19,500 for removing four trees and committed prohibited debt collection practices. The second lawsuit alleges that Secure Restoration Inc., a Florida-based company, charged homeowners in Craven County excessive amounts for flood remediation work, agreed to do the work at one price but then demanded a much higher price when the work was done, and committed prohibited debt collection practices.
“These out-of-state operators violated North Carolina’s price gouging statute and took advantage of people trying to rebuild after the devastation of Hurricane Florence,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “Price gouging is not only immoral, it’s illegal, and my office will not allow it.”
The lawsuit against Georgia Tree Company and defendants Kyle Jeffrey Rowe and Stuart Campbell Jr. alleges that the company told an Onslow County homeowner that it could not quote a price to remove three fallen trees and a fourth leaning against an external building. However, the company sent the homeowner’s insurance company a supposed “agreement” with a price of $19,598.22, without permission from or discussion with the homeowner as to that price. At that amount, the price of the work averaged out to approximately $580 per man-hour.
The lawsuit against Secure Restoration and defendants Zachary Bryan Broch and Charles Kim Slaughter Jr. alleges that Secure Restoration told a homeowner it would complete flood repair work for no more than $5,000. However, the final invoice was for $39,005.96 and included line items for work that had actually been completed by the homeowner. Secure Restoration later sent the homeowner a second adjusted invoice for $29,000 and threatened to put a lien on the homeowner’s property if the company did not receive payment. The homeowner paid $29,000 via bank check for work that is estimated to have been worth $10,300 at market price.Secure Restoration also reached an agreement with two other homeowners in New Bern to complete flood repair work for no more than $12,000. After the work was completed, Secure Restoration sent the homeowners an invoice for $21,000. When the homeowners refused to pay that amount, defendant Broch threatened to file a lien on their home.
In addition to the temporary restraining orders granted today, Attorney General Stein is also seeking preliminary and permanent injunctive relief against the defendants, as well as restitution for victims, civil penalties, attorneys’ fees, and other relief.
Laura Brewer (919) 716-6484