As we near the end of the hail season, it is still important to stay alert for potential fraud. In the aftermath of storms, dishonest contractors will offer quick fixes and low rates - all as part of a fraudulent arrangement. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) has seen many cases where disaster victims fall for these bad actors and their schemes.
In 2015, the NICB and the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office initiated an investigation involving one of these dishonest contractors. Jonathan McMillian, the owner of Lifetime Roofing and Restoration, allegedly agreed to repair and replace Colorado homeowners’ roofs; he collected the payments upfront, but never completed the job. Investigator Troy Cooper, of the Jefferson County DA’s office, requested the assistance of NICB Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) Jon Hersley.
SSA Hersely identified more than 45 member company claim files connected to McMillian and subsequently contacted those who had filed complaints against Lifetime Roofing and Restoration. During the ensuing investigation, SSA Hersley and Investigator Troy Cooper conducted more than 50 interviews of homeowners that were potentially scammed by McMillian. The interviews produced intelligence and evidence that assisted in the case built against McMillian, helping to paint a picture of his intricate scheme.
“Their sales people would contact the homeowners and tell them if they signed an agreement with Lifetime Roofing, they would replace their roof. But, there was a hitch - the homeowners were required to give their first insurance settlement checks to the roofing company before the jobs could be started.”
Investigator Cooper and SSA Hersley’s findings show that the respective victims lost between $3,000 to $20,000 each. These losses came from claims filed on behalf of thirteen different NICB member companies.
On March 24, 2017, as a result of the investigation launched by NICB and the Jefferson County DA’s office, Jonathan McMillian was indicted by the Jefferson County Grand Jury on multiple felony charges. The true bill finding by the grand jury included several charges related to felony theft against at risk adults. The NICB case against McMillian was solidly built, leading him to plead guilty to four felony theft counts. On 12/1/2017, McMillian was sentenced to 12 years Colorado Community Corrections. McMillan subsequently violated the terms of his Community Corrections sentence and was required to serve his 12 year sentence in Colorado State Prison, where he remains incarcerated. McMillan was also ordered to pay over $94,000 in restitution to the victim homeowners.
This case is an excellent example of the effective partnerships between NICB and local law enforcement, as they teamed together to protect the interests of the consumers, the community, and our member companies.
If you are a victim of a natural disaster, the NICB urges you to do your homework before hiring a contractor.
NICB suggests you consider these tips before hiring a contractor:
- Get more than one estimate.
- Get everything in writing. Cost, work to be done, time schedules, guarantees, payment schedules and other expectations should be detailed.
- Demand references and check them out.
- Ask to see the salesperson’s driver’s license and write down the license number and their vehicle’s license plate number.
- Never sign a contract with blanks; unacceptable terms can be added later.
- Never pay a contractor in full or sign a completion certificate until the work is finished and ensure reconstruction is up to current code.
- Make sure you review and understand all documents sent to your insurance carrier.
- Never let a contractor pressure you into hiring them.
- Never let a contractor interpret the insurance policy language.
- Never let a contractor discourage you from contacting your insurance company.
- Never pay in full until the contractor has delivered the materials to your property and finished the job.