8 Investigates

Henrico couple says instead of taking down their trees, contractor took their money

HENRICO, Va. (WRIC) - Long-awaited signs of spring offer hope in the front yard of Shawn and Jacqueline Tenpas.

"The flowers are coming up and we'll be keeping the lawn nice," explains Jacqueline.

But overshadowing the vibrant, seasonal colors are three half-butchered trees.

"It's embarrassing," says the Glen Allen woman, "You know? I've had neighbors ask oh did you just cut it down so it will regrow?"

She says last November, they hired the Jamie Swenson Tree Service to take down the trees.

Jacqueline adds the owner and his workers started the job but never finished.

Now the couple is living with three eyesores in their yard. One tree that stands maybe 20 feet tall has no branches or leaves. Another was cut down to about 4 feet. The third is a tall 2-foot stump.

"About this far into the project he asked for the check and I thought for sure nobody would leave this and so went ahead and paid him and he promised to come back and then he disappeared and we never saw him again," says Jacqueline.

Swenson cashed the $1,000 check.

Jacqueline still has a series of texts between the contractor and her husband that went on for more than a month. In them, Swenson gives all kinds of excuses for not coming back, including:

-He went to a concert the night before
-Someone ruined his saw
-He lost his phone
-He was in the hospital

"It's heartbreaking," says Jacqueline, "You want to put trust in people, especially companies that are licensed and it's just really disappointing."

A quick Google search offers mixed reviews for Jamie Swenson Tree Service.

Complaints on Yelp show others also claim Swenson took their money but failed to get the job done.

The Better Business Bureau gives the company an F.

8News tried to find Swenson, but learned that he no longer lives at either address linked to his company.

At his former apartment on Cutshaw Avenue, however, we found a warrant in debt notification taped to Swenson's old mailbox. The City of Richmond is searching for him, too.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Swenson returned our calls.

We told him a Glen Allen family had reached out because he hadn't finished the job.

Swenson said it had been too cold to work and that his tools had all broken down. Then it became clear, he wasn't talking about Jacqueline and Shawn Tenpas.

He did promise to call the couple, who aren't holding their breath.

They say they'll probably have to pay another company to complete the work.

We reached out to the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation. It's the state agency that oversees contractors.

It recommends before you hire one, you should get at least three estimates, check the contractor's references and never pay up front. Wait until the work is done.

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