By Marisa Oberle
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COMSTOCK PARK, Michigan (WXMI) — A tree removal company in Kent County has been charged by the Michigan Attorney’s Office with illegal business practices.
According to a notice of intended action obtained by FOX 17, Dustin Meyers and his limited liability company, Servcore Group, are accused of violating state consumer protection laws, including grossly inflating prices and misleading customers.
Servcore is based in Comstock Park.
A lawyer for Meyers says the company follows all laws and regulations in conducting its work.
“When I tell friends I have a $2 tree bill,000, their answer is, ‘Did they tear down the forest?’” said Nancy Michaels, who lives in Grand Rapids.
Michaels hired Meyers last July after a tree fell on their home during a thunderstorm.
At the time, she says, he assured her that her insurance would cover the cost of the job.
Meyers charged $25,410 for the removal.
Michaels was shocked by the price, as was their vendor, State Farm.
“My [agent] got the bill … and he said, “I’ve never seen a tree bill that big,” Michaels said.
State Farm paid out what they deemed reasonable expenses, approximately $6,659.
However, in the months that followed, Michaels said Meyers repeatedly asked her to pay the balance, which she refused.
Then, in February, Michaels received a payment order from a local law firm.
She threatened legal action if her debts weren’t paid off within a week.
“I was scared,” Michaels said. “I am 65 years old. I’m a single mom with two college kids. I want to retire in a year and am trying to get everything paid right now so I can have a great retirement.”
Michaels’ case is similar to the case set out by the attorney general’s office in its memo to Meyers.
“Consumers who provided us with affidavits were told their insurance would be billed and were not quoted prices for the tree removal services,” the AG’s office wrote. “Later, everyone learned that Servcore had presented their insurance companies with absurdly high bills.”
In one case, the department said, a man was charged $20,400 for the removal of “a single dangling limb that did not cause appreciable damage.”
When he failed to pay Meyers, his home was mortgaged for the unpaid balance.
“It is apparent from the responses to complaints you have submitted to this office through an attorney that you believe your contracts with these consumers allow you to do business in this way,” the AG’s office added in its statement . “You are wrong.”
The notice applies to Timber Ridge Tree Care, Maple Valley Tree Service and other aliases used by Servcore.
A filing search revealed that Meyers has opened 36 companies under Servcore since 2020. Many of them deal with tree removal and other landscaping services.
Michaels notes that when she first spoke to Meyers, she got the impression that she was hiring Ada Tree Service.
The contract she signed was with Maple Valley Tree Service. The crew that came to her house had Timber Ridge Tree Care plastered on their trucks.
“I called Dustin and said, ‘Dustin, I have a very bad feeling about this,'” Michaels said. “He said, ‘Well, if you send us away, it’ll take four hours, I’ll charge you four hours.’ I said, ‘Okay, I hope you’re being fair.'”
She hopes everything goes away.
“I don’t need money, I don’t want to pay him money,” Michaels said. “I just want it settled.”
An attorney for Meyers declined to answer specific questions about the attorney general’s investigation or Michaels’ case because the matter is ongoing, but issued the following statement:
“Servcore provided Ms. Michaels with prompt, same-day service on a Sunday that was safe, professional and effective to resolve her tree emergency. Servcore strives to provide the same professional service to all of its customers. It is unfortunate that Ms. Michaels’ insurer refuses to pay Servcore for the prompt, safe and effective work that ultimately mitigated the insurer’s liability to Ms. Michaels. The carrier’s refusal to pay in this case was unreasonable and illegal. Servcore is aware of the Michigan Office of the Attorney General’s investigation and the apparent general investigation of the emergency tree removal industry. Servcore has followed all local, state and federal laws and regulations in conducting its emergency tree felling operations, including compliance with the Michigan Consumer Protection Act. Servcore respects the attention the Attorney General’s office is giving to the emergency tree service industry and wants to be a partner in helping it understand the industry to achieve common goals, rather than becoming an opponent of already aligned positions.”
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