LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Two men have been arrested for grand theft and exploitation of the elderly after police say they tried charging a woman in her 70s close to $1,000 for ductwork that was not actually done.
According to Lakeland police, 39-year-old Carl Hassel and 33-year-old Joshua O’Neal were hired by the victim on Nov. 1 to clean her air conditioning ducts.
When the two technicians began the work, they told the victim more work was needed than the initial agreed-upon price of $100. Police say they allegedly told her they could perform the necessary work for an extra $1,900, however, she said she couldn’t afford it.
According to police, Hassel and O’Neal asked the victim how much she could afford and she said $800 but would need to leave home to withdraw the additional money from her pension funds.
Lakeland police say Hassel agreed to perform the additional cleaning services for $800 and told the victim the work would be done “off the books.”
After the two men left her home, the victim started examining the work that was supposed to have been done and noticed nothing looked cleaner, police say. She then contacted law enforcement thinking she might have been scammed.
When detectives went to her home, they agreed that the ducts did not appear to have been cleaned and reached out to a licensed HVAC inspector and expert witness for the Attorney General’s Office to conduct an inspection of the ductwork and components of the air conditioning system.
Police say the expert agreed the system was not cleaned to industry standards and the air handler was in such an extreme state of disrepair that there would be no purpose in cleaning the ductwork without restoring the unit.
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