Des Moines Residents Warn of Tree Scammer

DES MOINES, Iowa - Numerous residents of the Metro are speaking out after they say a tree trimmer scammed them, taking off before the job was done and cashing the check before they could stop him.

Dawn Solis Toledo is the latest to claim Eric Mitchell, of Residential Services, agreed to cut down some dead trees in her yard, only to cut out before the job was done.

"So, we had these four giant trees laying in the grass, so we had to get them cut down by ourselves," she said. "So yeah, pretty crappy."

Solis Toledo says Mitchell stuck a flyer in her door, advertising his services. Originally quoting the job to cut down seven trees at $2,500, he quickly negotiated down to $600 when Solis Toledo says she and her family weren't interested.

"And I was like, jeez!," she said. "I'd be a fool not to have all this work done for $600 bucks."

But that's where she says Mitchell suckered her - only cutting down four of the trees last weekend, before taking off and never coming back. Before Solis Toledo could cancel the check, she says Mitchell had cashed it, and turned off his cell phone.

"As people that live in Iowa, you want to believe your neighbor, you want to believe that people aren't bad," she said. "And you want to believe that people will do the right thing."

Solis Toledo isn't the only one crying foul; she quickly learned some of her neighbors had fallen victim to the scam as well.

"He seems to know what he's doing," she said. "I put something immediately up on our neighborhood page - I was like, 'Hey!' Because I'd knew he'd canvassed. I'm like, 'If anybody hears from this guy, don't hire him. He's scamming you, he's just going to take your money.'"

Solis Toledo says she contacted Des Moines Police, but because she entered into an agreement with Mitchell, no criminal charges can be filed. Instead, she's been encouraged to sue him in civil court, and plans to do so along with one of her neighbors who also lost money. One caller told Channel 13 she already sued Mitchell for the same scam - and he never responded to the claim, causing there to now be a ruling against him. Another caller from Ankeny claims she's pursuing legal action, too.

"I don't want this to happen to people," Solis Toledo said. "I don't want other people have to be stuck with trees laying in their yard."

As neighbors offer tools and hands to help clear the debris from Solis Toledo's yard, she says she's thankful.

"This guy, he's a jerk. He did bad things, he did all that. But he still can't rob us of the feeling that our friends are here," she said. "Your community comes together, and that is truly what Iowa is all about to me."