The District Attorney's Office is investigating a company called American Shingle to determine whether it is bilking homeowners with hail-damaged roofs.
District Attorney Nola Foulston is warning consumers not to give any money to American Shingle and not to allow their insurance company to pay the company directly if their claim has not yet been fully processed.
Foulston also is asking that anyone who has a contract with the company contact her office at 316-660-3653.
Foulston said her office began looking into the company's business practices after receiving complaints from homeowners who authorized the Georgia-based firm to file claims with their insurance companies, but who have not received the new roofs they were promised.
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Some of those customers have been waiting five months or longer, she said, raising concern over whether the company actually plans to do the work.
The company is millions of dollars in debt, has filed for bankruptcy protection from creditors and closed its Wichita office, Foulston said.
Officials with American Shingle could not be reached for comment. The Eagle called several American Shingle office numbers around the nation, including two in Kansas, and each had the same recording saying that the office was closed and relocating.
Sharon Werner, chief of the district attorney's consumer protection division, said the roof-replacement claims average $3,000 to $6,000.
In some cases, insurance companies have issued partial payment with the balance to be paid on completion of the job, Werner said.
District attorney officials know of about 80 cases where people contracted with American Shingle, and believe there are more out there, Werner said. City inspection records indicate only about five roofs were actually completed, she said.
American Shingle has "sent out a letter to a number of the people saying 'we're going to have to reschedule you,' " she said.
The company maintained a storefront office with a sales force that went door-to-door in hail-damaged Wichita neighborhoods and aggressively sold homeowners on letting them take care of the damage claims and roof replacement, Foulston said.
The company has no roofing crews of its own in the Wichita area, Foulston said. "All they do is hire subcontractors."
She said the company has admitted that its bankruptcy "might leave a lot of people holding the bag."
Foulston said her office is working to determine whether a criminal case is warranted.
"It isn't a crime to go out of business," she said. "The crime is taking money from others when you know you're going out of business."
Foulston said her office has been in contact with other law enforcement agencies across the country and the same pattern appears to have emerged in several states.
In Alabama, a local Better Business Bureau was telling residents to use caution in dealing with the company. The bureau said it had received reports of roofing scams by the company. In Georgia, residents said American Shingle took thousands of dollars but didn't do promised roofing.
The Metro Atlanta Better Business Bureau gave American Shingle a grade of F. The agency cited 77 complaints of shoddy work, long delays, failure to give estimates and itemized job lists and customers' difficulty reaching the company after payment.