Two out-of-state men are in York County Prison for allegedly conning an older West Manchester Township woman out of $5,000 in a tree-trimming scam.
Frank Joseph Winans, 29, of Belen, N.M., and Jason N. Miller, 38, of Omaha, Neb., remain in prison in lieu of $100,000 bail.
The men are each charged with two counts of theft by deception and a single count of deceptive business practices, according to their charging documents.
The charges stem from an alleged tree trimming scam Miller, Winans and another man pulled off at a woman's home in the 1000 block of Taxville Road on Tuesday, July 24.
Detective Sgt. Jeffrey Snell said additional men might be involved in a scheme to bilk elderly homeowners out of money by performing
"They are preying on the elderly," Snell said.
Work: According to charging documents, a man approached the woman as she was getting mail from her mailbox and offered to trim her trees.
He gave her a quote of $125 per tree and without the woman giving him authorization to trim the trees, he and two other men set to work trimming the trees.
One of the men wrote out a bill of $5,500 but told the woman the fee would only be $5,000 if she paid in cash, documents state.
The woman told the man she'd have to go to the bank to get the money, and another man, later identified as Miller, drove her to Sovereign Bank on Bannister Street, documents state.
When Miller and the woman returned, the rest of the trimming crew was gone, documents state.
"In my case, they only trimmed a couple of trees," Snell said.
He estimated the true value of work, which included lightly trimming two trees and using a rope to poorly stabilize a tree, as being between $100 and $200.
Check: Police arrested Miller and Winans on Wednesday after being tipped off that they were at the same bank trying to cash a $6,000 check made out to Winans from another suspected victim.
Snell said he alerted bank branch officials to the possible scam on Wednesday and roughly 15 minutes later received a call from the branch manager that a man, later identified as Winans, was at the bank trying to cash the check.
The detective and officers arrested Winans in the bank and arrested Miller as he waited in a pickup truck outside, documents state.
The $6,000 check was to cover chimney and roof work done at the home of another victim. In actuality, the men did very little work while allegedly overcharging the victim, documents state.
York City Police are expected to file additional charges against Miller and Winans, Snell said.
A York City Police official was not available for comment Monday.
Gone: Police impounded the Dodge Ram pickup truck Miller was in. Inside the truck, police found "thousands of dollars of cash," documents state.
Under police questioning, Miller and Winans told similar stories of meeting a man who offered them work and that they only worked for him a few days.
Miller said he met a man named "Mike" while Winans said he met a man known as "Matt," documents state.
Miller told police he was supposed to meet "Mike" Thursday at Motel 6 in Manchester Township, but when officers went to the motel, the man was gone and likely skipped town, Snell said.
The ring of con men likely spend a few days in an area before they move onto another location, Snell said.
The men use "high pressure sales tactics" in an attempt to get elderly homeowners to agree to have the work done to their homes, Snell said.
Snell advised any potential victims of the con men to contact police immediately.
- Reach Greg Gross at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are some tips to help recognize home improvement scams and how to keep from becoming a victim:
* Never enter into a repair or improvement project without a written contract that includes a start and finish date and a three-day right-to-cancel notice.
* Never sign a blank contract, or one that does not include all the costs and supplies.
* Never hire a contractor who does not have a business card or local phone number and address. The business should have an actual physical address, not just a P.O. Box.
* Never hire a contractor who refuses to give you names and phone numbers of references.
* Never make final payment until you are completely satisfied with the work.
* Never feel pressured by contractors who make special or limited price offers.
* If you suspect something isn't right with a contractor, ask a younger family member to speak with the contractor.
Sources: The Office of the Pennsylvania Attorney General and detective Sgt. Jeffrey Snell of West Manchester Township Police.