Texas authorities have taken legal action against three men who ran an unscrupulous construction scheme that targeted victims of Hurricane Ike.
Attorney General Greg Abbott on Monday charged Benton R. Barber of Houston, Cody Miller of Houston, and Jacob R. Horn of Dallas with violating the Texas Insurance Code and the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA).
State officials said the men ran the following unlicensed businesses in Texas: 1 Day Roof, Roof Teams, Roof All Texas, Green Star Roofing, HB Roof Partners LLC, HBCI Texas Ltd. and Horn Brothers Roofing.
According to the state, the defendants sent misleading fliers and delivered deceptive door-to-door mailers and post cards to homeowners hardest hit by Hurricane Ike. Those advertisements referred to the official-sounding "Texas Department of Insurance Agency," and bore the state of Texas seal, which gave consumers the false impression they were from an official state agency.
"The postcards state that 'A brief review is required for you to possibly receive additional benefits from your insurance provider,'" the state alleged in its lawsuit.
The deceptive materials further urged homeowners to contact the fraudulent — but official-sounding — "Disaster Relief Management Team."
The misleading advertisements used such language as "Urgent!" and "Response Requested" and gave consumers information about the defendants' businesses. That, the lawsuit alleged, duped consumers into believing the state sanctioned these businesses.
The fliers also encouraged homeowners to visit a Web site the defendants set up, which looked similar to the official Web site for the state of Texas.
For a fee, the defendants claimed they could to negotiate with homeowners' insurance companies — action they falsely implied would "facilitate relationships and payments from insurance carriers."
"The Statements' overall appearance leads a reader to believe that the Defendants sending this information are affiliated with either The Department of Insurance, a state organized Disaster Relief Management Team, or insurance adjusters hired by the State to oversee claims," according to the state's lawsuit. "However, neither the Department of Insurance nor any other governmental agency has any part in this private business, does not approve of or sanction the Defendants' businesses, has not licensed the individual or businesses, and the Defendants are not agents of the State nor are they performing services on behalf of the State."
The Texas Department of Insurance is the state agency that regulates insurance carriers. That agency, which received numerous complaints about the defendants' fliers, referred this case for prosecution to the attorney general's office.
The state's lawsuit seeks restitution for homeowners who purchased the defendants fraudulent services and civil penalties of up to $20,000 for each violation of Texas law.