Cleanup Crew Defrauds Grieving Families, Suit Says
(CN) - A Texas company that offers biohazard services to clean up gruesome human remains defrauds traumatized families, five claim in a Dallas County court.
Jeffrey Mayes, Justine Ingels, Ricardo Donato, Cystal Dopkins and Cynthia Karle say they needed a biohazard team to clean up the remains of their loved ones, who either died from self-inflicted gunshots or were found several days after their death in the initial stages of decomposition.
They hired Aftermath Inc. for the job, but say they later learned that the company and its agents, Dawn Wilcox, Brian Cox and Justin Farber, had "devised a scheme to fraudulently obtain increased wages, favor, and eventual promotion through a series of repeated acts of fraud targeting vulnerable individuals shortly after the discovery of their loved ones in traumatizing and debasing conditions."
"Specifically, Cox, Wilcox, and Foster targeted the plaintiffs because their loved ones' remains were found in debasing and mortifying conditions, and defendants knew plaintiffs would be emotionally weak and susceptible to deception," the lawsuit says.
When asked for the estimated cost of the cleanup, based on an hourly rate, the defendants quoted prices that they knew were 300 percent to 1,000 percent below what they would actually charge, according to the complaint.
They then established "a pattern of working for 15 minutes and taking breaks for 45 minutes," while still reporting charges for a full hour worked to Aftermath," the lawsuit says. They also allegedly reported false charges for supplies they did not use.
The clients say they reported the unscrupulous charges to Aftermath, but the company did not take disciplinary action. Instead it allegedly rewarded the workers and even promoted defendant Cox to the position of regional supervisor.
The defendants also deceived the plaintiffs about Aftermath's collection practices. "When insurance companies refused to pay the fraudulent bills - often stating the charges were unreasonable and excessive - Aftermath Inc. has repetitively insisted plaintiffs' contact their insurance companies to squeeze them for every fraudulent dollar possible," the lawsuit states. They have even allegedly sent the plaintiffs forms to file with the Texas Department of Insurance so they can collect.
In the event they are not paid, Aftermath has "executed (or threatened to execute) fraudulent liens on the victims' properties (or the properties of their loved ones," according to the complaint.
Karle says Aftermath executed such a lien on her home; Mayes says it executed such liens on the home of her deceased father; and Ingels says the company put a lien on the home of her deceased brother. Donato and Dopkins say they have experienced threats of such action.
Aftermath has also threatened the clients with legal action if the fraudulent charges are not paid, according to the complaint.
"Defendant Aftermath Inc., as an employer in Texas, had a legal duty to plaintiffs and the public at large to retain only competent employees for the sensitive task of working with clients who would likely have experienced emotionally traumatic circumstance immediately prior to contracting for their services," the lawsuit says. "This duty is heightened by the standard of care required of companies who knowingly seek out cliental who face emotionally sensitive situations, such as Aftermath Inc. does."
The clients seek exemplary damages for conspiracy, fraud and negligence. They are represented by Marquette Wolf with Ted B. Lyon & Associates in Mesquite, Texas.