No one really needs more proof that remediators of all types conspire to defraud the public. I certainly don’t. Not when it comes to Assignment of Benefits (AOB).
Even when exposed for having done so they and their attorneys will often play the blame game, so their fraud game, can continue to bring home the bacon. Blame each other, blame the policyholder. Blame it on a billing mistake that’s been corrected or a bad employee that’s been disciplined or fired.
Then…do it all over again!
Attorney’s usually greet such accusations with feigned indignation, as in the Sun Sentinel piece saying they “bristled” at charges of fraud. Written by Ron Hurtibise and titled, “Attorneys object to Citizens’ water damage fraud allegations” it actually calculated the hundreds, even thousands, of times one or more of the bristlers had filed an AOB lawsuit. This, in the same article where attorneys “blamed” insurers for not paying invoices of their clients.
I believe reasonable persons (and lawyers) would conclude that at least some remediation invoices may be inflated. It’s hard to argue with arrest affidavits and court cases. (See NOTES #1 and #2 below)
You’ve seen my past reports in which the judge, (not me) accused the remediators and attorneys of perpetrating a “fraud” or engaging in a “scheme”, etc. (See NOTE #2 below). Now, ask yourself how many of Florida’s nearly 60,000 annual AOB enthused lawsuits, don’t make it far enough for us to find out what a judge might think? How many frauds go completely undetected? Can you say tens of thousands?
That’s why more and more television news teams are zeroing in.
Likely you’ve seen the reports via links provided on this blog site, including a video by Orlando’s Channel 9 Action News exposing one prolific and persistent roofing contractor named ELR Restorations, Inc.
But, after its’ public spanking, did ELR stop what it was doing?
It apologized, sure. But, did it back off?
The opposite, according to those who emailed me. It may have doubled down. One Osceola County homeowner sent me a picture of five flyers dangling on his door knob. That’s Five flyers, one door knob. Two from ELR!
And, zero hail storms!
Another Orlando resident with flyers adorning his house and no leaks in his 18-year old roof, emailed me that the largest hail stone he’s ever seen at his house was no bigger than a dime. And, in 20 years no neighbors have needed a new roof due to a hail event. Proving he’s no fan of ELR either, his comments triggered much of this entire blog.
Other consumers in the same area, all with major issues, finally called the same news team begging for another expose’ on ELR’s practices. Channel 9 responded. And, again, ELR strategically quelled the complaints by stating on the air, for all to hear, that it would graciously let the abused homeowners out of their contracts. (See NOTE #3 below).
Just for kicks you can check out the second ELR video and pay close attention to the complaining customers near the end. Their comments appear to demonstrate that ELR is not only playing games, but it’s playing them with attorneys. One appears in silhouette to complain about his repair estimate and testifies that ELR told him:
“Don’t worry we have a lot of good lawyers that will pressure the insurance company to go along with what we said.”
Don’t trust me. Watch the video and read all the BBB complaints yourself, including ELR’s responses, in a document titled ELR Restoration, Inc. Complaints Logged.
Please…invest the time necessary to draw your own conclusions and you may discover a disturbing pattern, with ELR and thus, with other AOB vendors: ELR solicits unwitting homeowners who have old roofs; it inspects and finds damages that don’t exist; it promises the homeowner free or discounted roof repairs; it sends inflated invoices to insurers; it puts liens on the homeowner’s property when the insurer doesn’t pay or doesn’t pay enough, and; it sues the insurer and will not resume or even start work until it gets enough money. It also appears to hold on to deposits or inadequate insurer payments until the consumer chips in, and/or ELR is either forced to do the work or return the money via a consumer complaint or TV news program.
Oh, almost forgot, according to BBB complaints: ELR’s workmanship sounds as shoddy as its customer communications.
One more thing. If you paid close attention to the second video, near the end you heard ELR’s spokesman say it will let the customer out of their contracts. How generous. Unfortunately, nothing is said about the fee for doing so. In most instances it appears ELR has the hutzpah to charge a “Breach of Contract” fee to those trying to break free. In fact, its treatment of some consumers appears so bad that, just like some insurers, customers’ too often express the willingness to pay just to get away from ELR.
Some BBB complaint excerpts:
“I was sent an email for breach of contract later that day for $350. I wasn’t happy about it.”
“No response, no answer, and no call back. This is my last step before litigation, and their lack of timeliness is potentially putting me in a situation where I could face foreclosure if the roof is not repaired by March.”
“They are holding me hostage for their accounts receivable problems.”
“I will be looking to seek litigation for several things here very shortly if not resolved very soon.”
“I do NOT want their services nor did I solicit them in any way.”
Desired Settlement: I want this business to put no further advertising flyers on my door.”
“ELR had me sign a AOB and has collected $20,000 to fix my kitchen and roof. They fixed my kitchen, but have not fixed my roof and still have the $.”
“I have tried to contact the owner Eric Rosario, and they keep saying that he is on vacation or out of the office. My roof is actively leaking when it rains, my husband who is 87 years old and I 66, can possibly slip and break a hip or worse because we have tile floors.”
“This company is dragging their feet with my refund I have been on the phone with a rep from this company every day. They’re telling me that a breach of contract needed to be signed which I was more than glad to do so. I faxed the form to them and took it to the next level and sent the original via certified mail. Even when there was no breach ever has taken place. I’ve been trying to get a roof on my home since September 4th, 2015. the lack of communication with this company is unbelievable. All I want is a refund and move on.”
“ELR has not been transparent about its practices and has not honored an oral agreement to release me from the Assignment of Benefits. I signed an assignment of benefits (AOB) with ELR without knowing. I changed my mind about doing business with ELR because their estimate was nearly $5,000 more than my insurance company paid.”
“ELR has not been transparent about its practices and has not honored an oral agreement to release me from the Assignment of Benefits.”
“I later received a breach of contract acknowledgement ($733 fee). I was not told that I would be charged for the estimate and they have not completed any work on my roof.”
“Company was hired to do home repairs. They have not been completed. Company has received payment from my home insurance for over $6000 dollars.”
“Roof was not repaired properly, damages on roof, company knows about it and has not fixed them. Ceiling from inside the house has not been repaired and work has been paid in full.
“This complaint concerns roof work they did on my property. We’re still waiting for a letter showing that a lien they put on my house has been removed.”
“This company came in told me I had a major pipe leak and needed to replumb my house. They started taking out floors that day. They did horrible work, they never put a barrier under my wood floors. They promised all kinds of stuff and never produced.”
“ELR Restoration sent me a letter requesting that I pay for a breach of Contract despite the fact I never signed a Contract with them.”
“They ran with all my insurance money and I am facing the biggest nightmare of my life. The company was E.L.R.”
Let’s face it, nobody’s perfect. But, I know of remediation vendors that have done business in Florida for over a decade that have never, that’s never, had to file a lien against a homeowner. And, they’ve never left a homeowner with an un-repaired loss due to an under paid claim from the insurer.
Why? Because they don’t use AOB as a means to force payment of inflated invoices!
Again, please read the entire complaints on ELR yourself here. As in the Channel 9 video, ELR has explanations for each complaint. But, is it just shushing the complainer? It appears to always be someone else’s fault; the insurer, the homeowner, an employee, a mistake. (Did I say insurer?)
Only once did ELR admit they were wrong. Even then the consumer had to file a complaint.
Do as you wish. Use ELR if you want. Maybe the complaints are as misguided as the responses imply.
But I, for one, will not be letting this company anywhere near my home, much less inside it or on the roof.
Ditto for any vendor that uses “Assignment of Benefits”.
NOTE #1: Hurtibise quoted attorney Ken Duboff as blaming many of his 2400 lawsuits on Citizens’ move to opt out of the appraisal process. But, his name appears multiple times in the “Flames and Flood” arrest affidavits, including serious accusations from a confidential informant. You decide what it all means by reading the summary of the arrest affidavits here on page 9, under “Lawyer Footnotes”. The point is, “Flames and Flood” (See Conspiracies Abound) was another massive conspiracy involving lawyers, PA’s, water extractors, plumbers, et. al.
NOTE #2: In previous blogs I’ve shared examples of court sanctions and judiciary decisions showing how attorneys (and PA’s or plumbers) are also involved in AOB abuse, as follows:
Example: according to court documents (see a summary here), homeowners George and Vivian Debs conspired with at least two other entities to defraud Prepared Insurance Company of $117,886.84. Their co-conspirators, and the scheme’s likely architects, included ICC Public Adjusters, ARKO Plumbing and possibly others, including, an affiliated water remediation firm.
According to the arrest affidavit Mr. and Mrs. Debs were told by the PA and the plumber to lie during their EUO (Examination Under Oath). In essence, though Debs had experienced a prior, relatively minor, water loss, he was to lie about the date the damage was discovered and file a new claim for sudden and accidental damage that would be covered and was far more extensive; with “rolling water” throughout the house. The alleged damage would appear to have been remediated by the co-conspirators, and thus Prepared Insurance was now on the hook for $117,886.84, with no opportunity to adjust the claim or verify its origin.
The case was noteworthy due to forensic evidence obtained from Exactimate (water damage estimating software), cell phone records and pictures of the damage (jpegs) that had date stamps in conflict with dates provided during sworn depositions.
Upon arrest, Mr. and Mrs. Debs admitted they’d been instructed by PA Raul Rivero and plumber Joe Jaremko to lie to Prepared Insurance Company, and that they had never suffered any water damage at all. To review the original arrest affidavit, go here. All parties are innocent until proven guilty.
Example: read the court documents regarding the Cardenas law firm alleging two separate water losses at the head of the firm’s Miami condo. She, allegedly, worked to create the “appearance” of two sudden and accidental water leaks that necessitated repairs by the same plumber, Lazaro Menendez, water mitigation company (Dryworld Inc) and the assistance of a “loss consultant” named Daniel Silva. Cardenas, Menendez, Dryworld and Silva, again, according to court documents: “all worked in collusion to fabricate the dates of loss, cause of loss, scope of loss and value of damages.” (See Note #2 below).
Example: The Sun Sentinel article quoted Cohen & Battisti attorney Imran Malik who said that eliminating AOB “..would put the policyholder back in the crosshairs.” But, read the decision by Circuit Judge Michelle Sisco and you get a completely different set of “crosshairs”. She accuses Cohen & Battisti of “fraud” and an “obvious lack of regard…to our court system.” Read where this judge says the evidence is “clear and convincing” that Cohen & Battisti “set in motion a scheme intended to perpetrate a fraud upon the court” here. (See Note #3 below)
Example: according to the court filing for Case No. 15-008280 CA 01 (05), “Demand For Jury Trial” it is “common practice” for “Cardenas, Dryworld, Mendendez and Silva to work in combination” toward the end result of: delaying Southern Fidelity’s (SFIC’s) inspection of the claim; precluding SFIC from inspecting (or observing through photos/videos) the plumbing system failure that is being alleged; disposing and/or concealing the plumbing system/part that failed so as to interfere with SFIC’s ability to validate the loss; allowing water excavation to be completed before SFIC can inspect, utilizing unqualified loss consultants; shielding the claimant from speaking to SFIC; delaying communications; relying upon flees “plumbing invoices”; not submitting receipts, invoices, proposal or other documents; causing internal damage to flooring; concealing the identity of persons preparing unqualified estimates, on and on and on. All parties are innocent until proven guilty.
Example: read another decision by County Court Judge, John A. Moran accusing Cohen & Battisti of a frivolous lawsuit and stating they are in contempt of court, deserving of “sanctions” including a total of $108,337.72 in costs, expert fee’s and attorney fees. All parties are innocent until proven guilty.
NOTE #3: ELR’s AOB language states; “I hereby assign any and all insurance rights, benefits, and proceeds under the above referenced policy to my repair facility ELR Restoration, Inc. I hereby authorize direct payment of any benefits or proceeds to my repair facility, ELR Restoration, Inc., as consideration for any repairs made by ELR Restoration, Inc. I hereby direct my insurance carrier_________________________ to release any and all information requested by my repair facility, ELR Restoration, Inc., its representative, or its Attorney for the direct purpose of obtaining actual benefits to be paid by my insurance carrier to my repair facility for services rendered or to be rendered for my appropriate property damage. In this regard, I waive my privacy rights.”
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