Sheriff issues warning to out-of-state tree services

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News 12 at 6 o'clock / Monday, Feb. 24, 2014

Aiken County Sheriff's Office

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. (WRDW) -- For Kervin Brothers Tree Service, a limb and branch-covered backyard in North Augusta is just one job out of a backlog of 300. Workers used chainsaws to chop up a large downed tree. A bobcat lifted the pieces into a wood-chipper. After six hours of hard work, the backyard of the home off Austin Graybill Road still wasn't completely clear.

Owner Jeff Kervin hasn't slowed down, even after a lot of the North Augusta company's equipment was stolen days ago.

"They took everything we needed except for our big equipment to go to work," says Kervin.

There are no suspects, but Kervin has his suspicions about who stole the $6,000 worth of equipment. Tree companies from across the country have come here to make money. Kervin says most are honest, but some are not.

"I've met them from California, Florida, Minnesota, Illinois, Missouri," says Kervin.

"We have them from Texas, Minnesota, New York, all over Florida," adds Aiken County Sheriff Michael Hunt.

Monday morning, Sheriff Hunt called a press conference to address the concerns.

"If you're coming here to take advantage of our citizens, we're going to pursue charges," he says. "Simple as that."

Hunt says his office has already gotten a lot of call about the out-of-state contractors. The sheriff says be smart, get multiple quotes, and look out for elderly neighbors.

He says companies need a license to do business or solicit door-to-door in cities like Aiken or North Augusta. However, in the county, a license isn't needed.

"We've got a bunch of folks down here trying to make money, and some of them are honest and some of them are not," he says.

Kervin says with the internet and BBB, it's easy to vet the professionalism of different tree companies. He says never let a tree service handle your insurance.

"Never pay anybody up-front. Reputable companies can wait for their money," he adds.

He says it's better to hire locals, since they're easier to track down later.

"You know, I'm not saying don't use somebody from out-of-town. I'm not saying don't let them do your work. I'm telling you to check them out and just be cautious," he says.

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