Men who ran roofing business have changed tactics

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Reported by: Janna Clark
Updated: 11/14/2012 1:48 pm Published: 11/13/2012 10:32 pm

Vicki Kell read out loud what she wrote. She had taken notes, so she won't forget the details.

"He was promising me the moon and never came through and did anything," Vicki said.

But Vicki's story isn't the first FOX23's heard.

Last February a Broken Arrow woman was so stressed about the situation she didn't want to reveal her identity.

"I know when I look back I should've known better," she said.

But she gave Precision Contracting and Roofing a $10,000 check made out by her insurance company. It was supposed to pay for a new roof. Bill Pittman owned the company, and his brother Casey Pittman worked with him. But the name on the back of the check was Phil Strawn, short for John Phillip Strawn, II.

The woman says Strawn cashed the check, but he and the Pittmans never did any work.

"We were very upset they had 10-thousand dollars, and they weren't calling us back," she said.

A FOX23 crew confronted Strawn in a South Tulsa parking lot back in February.

"I want to talk to you about the Pittmans," said FOX23's Janna Clark.

"I don't have anything to say. I don't work with them," Strawn said.

Although he denied it, FOX23 had cell phone video to prove he was involved with the Pittmans. In it, Strawn says he's the foreman on a roofing job for the Pittmans.

"I want to ask you about specific complaints we got," Janna said.

"What do you want to ask me about? My name's not on any paperwork, no LLC or anything," Strawn said.

But remember - Strawn's name was on the back of the check that was made out to the Pittmans' business.

"Your name's on the back of the check," Janna pointed out.

"My name's not on a contract. That's not against the law to cash a check," Strawn said.

Before our interview was over, Strawn did tell us something that was true - that he was doing tree work now.

Not long after our story aired, people started calling to complain about the tree trimming and someone with a familiar face - Strawn.

Vicki Kell hired Strawn to do tree trimming in her back yard.

She says he gave her a business card with the company name - Ultimate Tree Care.

Before the job was done, she paid Strawn in full - $750. She said he and his crew didn't finish and also broke the window of her outdoor building that was next to the tree.

"I called and called and called," Vicki said.

She said Strawn wouldn't come back or do anything about the broken window.

"I thought he would be a man of his word," Vicki said.

Vicki said Bill Pittman was working with Strawn. Now she wants to warn others.

"I think it's very wrong. There's too many elderly people in this area that can be taken also," Vicki said.

Vicki's not alone. Two of her South Tulsa neighbors told FOX23 a similar story off camera. They said they paid Strawn to do the work, but he took the money and didn't finish the job.

Same thing happened in another South Tulsa neighborhood.

One woman told FOX23 Strawn and Pittman did a good job trimming her trees then used that as a reference to try to take advantage of her neighbors.

Kalpana Patel says that's exactly what happened to her.

"Is this the guy?" Janna asked as she showed Kalpana a mug shot photo of Strawn.

"Yeah, that's him," Kalpana said, nodding.

She recognized Strawn and Bill Pittman.

She said it was Bill who approached her under a different company name - Urban Tree Care.

"Pretty much they used the line we have everything we need here already we have all the equipment, and we can take care of this today," Kalpana said.

Kalpana said Pittman asked for money up front, but she wouldn't pay it.

"I told him I'll go ahead and pay him in full when it's done," Kalpana said.

Pittman gave her a contract for the tree trimming with his name on it.

When the crew finished the job, she handed Pittman the $2,900 check made out to Urban Tree Care, but Strawn signed the back of the check.

"Oh wow. Wow. Well, I feel very blessed that he did finish the work," Kalpana said.

But her neighbors didn't fare so well.

Three of them told FOX off camera they paid first, and Strawn promised to do the work. But they say Strawn and Pittman took off with the money and didn't finish the job.

The neighbors admitted they shouldn't have paid anything before the work was done. Most wouldn't talk about it on camera because they're scared of these Strawn and the Pittmans. One said Strawn threatened to hurt him and his family.

But Strawn won't be facing any charges. According to the Medical Examiner's office, police found Strawn dead in mid-September in a friend's Tulsa apartment. The Medical Examiner's office says the cause of death in still pending because the toxicology report hasn't come back.

But remember the Broken Arrow woman who said Strawn and the Pittmans stole $10,000? 

Bill and Casey Pittman face criminal charges in Wagoner County for what happened to her - one count each of obtaining money by false pretenses. Both are supposed to go back to court to enter a plea on January 8.

"When you do something bad, there's always a consequence for it," Kalpana said.

FOX23 did try to call Bill and Casey Pittman to get their side of the story.

But FOX23 couldn't reach them.

So what about those who say they're victims of the tree trimming jobs? Most say they haven't reported what happened to police. Often times, people tend to think these are civil issues, not criminal.

But police tell us they can be considered criminal, especially if you pay for the job, and the company doesn't do any work.

Authorities in Johnson County, Kansas tell FOX23 that earlier this year, Bill Pittman got probation when he cashed a homeowner's $6,000 check and didn't do any work.

We checked with the Better Business Bureau, and although there were complaints against the roofing companies, there are no complaints listed under the tree trimming company names the men used.

Customers can also make complaints to the Better Business Bureau, which investigates and keeps record of each complaint. The number to call is (918)492-1266.

So what should you do before you hire a tree trimming company?

Here's some advice from Mike Forest who owns Trees by the Forest.

He says get references.

"All you have to do is say, let me talk to some of your customers. Let me see some of your work," Forest said.

Make sure the company has insurance. You can even call the insurance company to make sure the information you received is correct.

And don't ever pay before the the job is finished.

"Never, never. Why?... They don't need money up front. They already have their equipment... As soon as they say, I need money before I get started, just send them down the road," Forest said.

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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of KOKI FOX23 - Tulsa

Gladys Crump - 11/15/2012 12:26 AM
0 Votes
Yes since Fox 23 knows these men are scam artist isn't it their responsiblility to at least post their pictures so no one else will be ripped off? Come on want us to watch you and you don't care enough to even post photos so we will know these guys when they walk up to our door? Not very community service oriented are you?

mustangdriver - 11/14/2012 1:03 PM
0 Votes
Who pays $2900 for tree services anyways? lol I should put my college degree away and start trimming trees.

Unwashed Mass - 11/14/2012 12:29 PM
0 Votes
Their photos should be included with this story.

Mayor Maynot - 11/14/2012 11:46 AM
1 Vote
LOL @Laura I bet your friends the pittman's are rip roarin ready to get into court.

laura76 - 11/14/2012 9:56 AM
0 Votes
I find it ironic that your joke of a news station is using Mike Forest as a credible source when he himself has a long history of ripping people off, theft, etc. Not to mention the fact he fraudulently claims to be a licensed arborist when he is not! Where is the news story on him??? Someone didn't do their homework very well. Consider the source...Fox is not a credible news source. There is a reason why no other news source is picking this up. Hope all of the accusations against the Pittman's are true....If not Fox could be in for a big lawsuit.

Sensible1 - 11/14/2012 8:38 AM
0 Votes
Shoddy reporting that seems to be led by someone's vindictiveness and Fox23's desire to create their own news by sensationalizing things. Where is the government and lawyers who should be protecting people from the media's obvious lack of responsibility for reportng a complete, accurate and unbias story? I want facts not a soap opera or soap box.

Mayor Maynot - 11/14/2012 12:51 AM
0 Votes
Good to hear that scum like strawn finally got his dose. Next scums to go needs to be the pittman's.
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