Troubleshooters: Tree trimmer faces years in prison
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Money doesn’t fall from trees, but two dozen homeowners feel like they threw their money away after a tree contractor cashed their checks and didn’t do the work.
Mike Hebert only lost a $350 deposit, but when he found customer after customer who faced similar issues, he created his own dossier on the owner of Branchwalker Tree Service, James Morgan.
Hebert turned it all over to police, begging them to do something. Now, authorities have stepped in.
“It was back in October, had (Morgan) come out to take a look at this tree right here,” Hebert said. “He agreed to remove it for a very good price.”
His tree in his front yard is still standing.
“Its a got a bit of a lean to it, and I think it’ll fall eventually,” Hebert said.
Even though he hired Branchwalker Tree Service to take it down, Hebert said Morgan cashed his $350 and never came back.
“I never saw him again,” Hebert said.
Hebert said he did some investigating himself and stumbled upon other customers who felt ripped off, like Linda Martin.
“The tree was dead and the limb was up over the house,” Martin said. “Honestly, I didn’t want it to fall on my bedroom.”
She got Morgan’s business card from his mother. Morgan came right out when she called.
“He came that same day, that struck me right there,” Martin said.
What really stumped her was her boyfriend’s decision to pay Morgan in full, a little more than $1,000.
“I don’t think you need to pay for services before they’re rendered,” Martin said. “Anyhoo, we called his bank. It had already been cashed.”
Morgan never came back to her house either. She sued him, won a judgment, but Morgan didn’t pay and skipped his court hearings.
Hebert tracked down two dozen other customers who all had similar stories. He added up all their losses and said its more than $10,000.
“He needs stopped, he does,” Martin said.
Hebert’s private eye work is actually generating some results. Morgan now faces criminal charges, with two cases in Clark County, and a new case in Floyd County.
The detective wrote in the police report Morgan told him he cashed checks without providing services.
Martin hired another company to do the tree work Morgan skipped out on. Hebert’s thought about cutting his tree down himself, but said he’ll likely hire someone else.
“I probably could, but that’s a lot of work and I figured I’ll just pay somebody else to do it,” Hebert said.
WAVE News tried to speak with Morgan outside of court, but his appearances so far have been online only.
Morgan told a Clark County judge Wednesday he needs a public defender, because he’s still employed, but isn’t getting a lot of business with all that’s going on right now.
He faces up to a decade in prison if convicted.
A trial in Clark County was set for next year. Morgan has not yet appeared on the Floyd County charges.
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