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Convicted Contractor Donald E. Berry Is Still Running Roofing Scam, Consumers Tell BBB

3/27/2012

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roofing scam victimsSt. Louis, Mo., March 27, 2012 – A St. Louis County roofing contractor with a long history of taking money from customers but not doing the work is facing a new wave of consumer complaints.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning St. Louis area property owners to be alert for Donald Eugene Berry and Don Berry Roofing.  Berry lists a business address in the 100 block of Willette Terrace in south St. Louis County.

Berry has had numerous run-ins with law enforcement, dating back more than 20 years. In 1997, a St. Louis County judge sentenced him to eight years in prison for stealing money from several roofing clients.  The judge determined then that Berry was a persistent offender.

In October 2010, a St. Charles County judge sentenced Berry to 30 days in jail, work release and five years’ probation after he pleaded guilty to a 2009 roofing scam.

In recent months, several property owners in the St. Louis region have filed complaints with the BBB against Berry and his roofing business, claiming that he took their money and either failed to finish jobs or did no work at all. (Two of the victims are pictured here).

The business has an “F” grade with the BBB, the lowest grade possible.

Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said Berry’s contracting record is so bad that “it’s hard to believe anyone would trust him to make good on his promises. The legal system has given Mr. Berry multiple chances to turn his life around, but he continues to victimize his customers.”  

A Vietnam War veteran from St. Louis said he paid Berry nearly $5,000 on Dec. 5 to replace his storm-damaged roof. The man said Berry delivered shingles to the home shortly after, but they were the wrong color. Berry promised to replace the shingles and do the job, but nearly four months later, no work has been done.  Berry has claimed the consumer paid him only $200, not $5,000, the owner said. The man said that when he talked to Berry recently, “he just laughed about it; he thought it was funny.”  The customer said the experience has been extremely difficult.

The owner of a local landscaping business said he gave Berry a $700 cash advance in February to replace a rubber roof.  Berry said he would begin work immediately, but no work has been done.  The landscaper said Berry was so anxious to get the money that he drove with him to the man’s bank to get the cash out of his account.  “That was the last time I saw him,” the man said.

A man from Florissant, Mo., said he paid Berry a $3,400 down payment on a roofing job in June 2011, but Berry never started the job. He said Berry has given multiple excuses. The man said he and his wife had been laid off from their jobs and do not have the money to hire another contractor.  He said delays have resulted in additional water damage to his home. “He pretty much stole my money,” he said of Berry.

Berry’s trouble with the law dates back to at least 1990, when he pleaded guilty to violating the state’s merchandise practices act, a felony.  In a 1995 court appearance, he blamed his actions on a gambling problem, but said he felt he could control it.

In March 1997, two of Berry’s roofing victims wrote letters to the St. Louis County judge responsible for sentencing him. “There is no way of knowing how many people have been victimized by Mr. Berry or how many citizens may fall prey to his tactics if he is allowed to remain free,” wrote a Hazelwood, Mo., couple who lost $1,800.

“He knew exactly what he was doing and will continue to steal, cheat, gamble and probably injure someone if he is not incarcerated for a lengthy period of time,” wrote a consumer from Chesterfield, Mo., who underlined the word “lengthy” for emphasis.  He lost $1,700.

Berry told the BBB last week that he intends to make good on all of the outstanding complaints. “We’ve been kind of busy with the last couple of storms,” he said.  “I’m trying to get all squared away. Ninety-eight percent of the time, the work is excellent,” he said. “The other two percent, that’s what gets me into trouble.” 

The BBB offers the following tips on hiring companies to make home repairs:

  • Beware of possible scams. Watch out for contractors in unmarked trucks or for companies requiring advance payment.  Don’t succumb to high-pressure techniques, such as notices that the price is good for one day only.
  • Try to verify the business’ true identity.  Get a business card and a physical location of the company and visit the offices if you have doubts.  It is always better to deal with well-established businesses.
  • Ask for references.  Make sure the company that wants your business has satisfied other customers.
  • Understand that when an insurance company issues a settlement check for damages, that payment is going to you, not to a contractor.   Just because you have been dealing with one contractor doesn’t mean you can’t decide to hire a different one if you are uneasy about the first.
  • Do not pay the full amount in advance of the work being completed.  A good rule of thumb is to pay one-third when the contract is signed, another third when the job is 50 percent complete and the final third when you are satisfied with the completed job.
  • Check a company’s BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.

Contacts: Michelle Corey, President & CEO, 314-584-6800, mcorey@stlouisbbb.org, or Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, 314-584-6743, communications@stlouisbbb.org, or Bill Smith, Trade Practice Investigator, 314-584-6727, tpc1@stlouisbbb.org

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