St. Louis, Mo., Nov. 7, 2013
Dorothy Jones of University City with an unfinished project Damon Hunter started at her home.
– A St. Louis County contractor indicted three years ago on charges that he stole money from customers in 2009 finally was arrested on the charges last month after police found him involved in what appears to be the same type of home-repair scheme.Better Business Bureau
(BBB) advises consumers to use extreme caution when dealing with Damon Shawn Hunter
, 42, of Hazelwood, and his companies: D & H Home Quality Services
, D H Home Services
and H & H Home Services
. Customers and police say that Hunter had been using the name Jermaine Jenkins in recent months, going door-to-door to solicit repair work in St. Louis and St. Charles counties.
Complainants told BBB that the businesses took deposits for repairs, but then either never started the work or never finished the projects.
The businesses have an “F” rating with the BBB, the lowest possible.
A recent customer from University City said, “I feel like a sucker and a fool.” She said she paid D & H and Hunter $1,300 for replacement of two driveway retaining walls. Workers broke off several large pieces of the walls, but then abandoned the project.
Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said Hunter’s business practices pose a threat to consumers across the region.
“These are not just a handful of isolated cases,” Corey said. “This man has backed out on promises to homeowners repeatedly. He has taken thousands of dollars from people who trusted him to do what they hired him to do.”
BBB logged several complaints against Hunter and his former D H Home Services between spring 2009 and summer 2010, all involving work that was never completed. In October 2010, a St. Louis County grand jury indicted Hunter on two counts of felony stealing and one count of misdemeanor stealing. In those cases, Hunter allegedly took money from St. Louis County homeowners for painting and deck repair work that was never done.
St. Louis County issued a warrant for Hunter’s arrest in 2010, but police were unable to locate him until last month, when a consumer called Bridgeton Police to an address in that community where Hunter was negotiating a deal for contracting work.
Hunter apparently identified himself to police as Jermaine Jenkins, but they later discovered identification that showed he was Hunter.
Hunter was arrested on the outstanding warrants from 2010.
Several people who hired D & H this year said they were solicited by a man who identified himself as Jenkins. They said he presented them with a business card from the company with Jenkins’ name. But when they made deposits for the work, the checks were written to Hunter, who was identified as the owner of the company.
A second University City woman, who hired D & H for a variety of home repairs, said workers did less than half the work promised after she paid the company $4,250. She described the man she knew as Jenkins as very friendly, adding that he brought his two sons to her house.
“We put so much trust in him,” the woman said.
The customer from Bridgeton said he hired D & H in August to build a deck on his home and paid him a deposit of $1,050. “He never even set a post,” the man said of the contractor he also knew as Jenkins. “He kept coming up with different excuses.”
In a complaint filed with BBB, a third University City woman said she paid a deposit for a fence and roof replacement at her home. Four months later, she said, “nothing has been done . . . and Damon Hunter nor Jermaine Jenkins is anywhere to be found.”
In a phone interview with BBB, Hunter blamed the company’s problems on a “silent partner” who Hunter said was paid to do work that was never completed. “He set me up,” Hunter said. Hunter said he has no records of his construction projects because “everything was thrown away.”
“I was caught in a pickle,” Hunter said.
He identified Jermaine Jenkins as a representative of D & H. When asked why several of his customers identified Hunter’s photo as the man they knew as Jenkins, he declined to answer.
“There are some things that I can disclose and some things that I can’t disclose,” Hunter said.
BBB offers the following tips to consumers looking to hire a company for home repair work:
- Don’t make a hasty decision. Take time to ensure the business is local and has a track record of reliable workmanship. Visit www.bbb.org or call 314-645-3300 for a BBB Business Review, which includes the company’s BBB rating (A+ plus to F) along with the complaint history and company contact information.
- Ask the company for references and call those property owners. Ask them if the jobs were performed as agreed upon and whether they were satisfied with the results.
- Verify whether the contractor has all required licenses and insurance. Ask your city whether it has had experience with the business.
- Be careful dealing with door-to-door solicitors representing unfamiliar businesses.
- Ask for a written contract and read it to ensure that everything discussed is included. Make sure it includes all details of the job and when and how payments are to be made.
- Do not pay everything in advance. A portion of the payment should be made when the contract is signed, another portion when the work is under way and the final portion once the customer is satisfied with the completed project.