BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) – A Brown County couple targeted in a contracting fraud scheme is sharing their story hoping others can avoid falling victim.
Action 2 News first reported the search for two men at the end of July wanted for demanding thousands of dollars after promising to seal the couple’s driveway for a lower price.
Mico Jody Miller, 26, of Texas was arrested last Tuesday. The self-identified “Asphalt Gypsy” faces charges for that fraud and others he recently performed around the state.
Miller was traveling with a 12-year-old boy.
Patrick DeJardin’s father owns Jay’s Asphalt Maintenance, a business specializing in seal coating and asphalt maintenance for more than 25 years.
“We do anything from patchwork to crack filling to seal coating,” said DeJardin.
Don and Gail hired the business for work on their driveway years ago. So, when a man showed up on July 27 claiming to be Jay’s son, they believed him.
“They said, ‘Our father put this driveway in before, and we have hot glue in here, hot tar in here, and we’re going to go through to see if you want to use it. It would be $600 to cover your driveway,‘” said Gail.
It was a deal too good to refuse, but what they did not know was that man was not Patrick.
“How dare they,” said DeJardin. “We’re a reputable company. We’ve been around for awhile, and the other thing that goes through my head is, is there anybody else?”
Part of the way into the job, the scammer later identified as Miller demanded $10,500 for the work, a price the Kowaleski’s simply were not prepared to pay.
“At that point, it started to get a little fuzzy,” said Gail. “Then it got to a scary point where we almost thought he had a weapon or was going to hurt us. He wouldn’t leave our side at all.”
Desperate for payment, he even tried to get the couple to sign over the title to their corvette.
The Kowaleski’s and their kids got together $3,000. It was enough money to get Miller to leave.
“I gave him the money. I asked if I could take his picture, and he went a little ballistic on me saying, ‘No my religion doesn’t allow this, and all this other kind of stuff,‘” said Don.
Their son-in-law acted quickly and snapped a photo of the truck complete with license plate number as he drove away. That picture eventually led to Miller’s arrest.
“This is involving 16 different counties now,” said Don. “They’ve had people from at least six counties come forward now since our initial investigation got started.”
“I have worked with criminals for nearly 40 years, and I felt like I was pretty good at it,” said Gail. “I felt like I was pretty safe. I knew the gimmicks. I’ve worked with these kind of people, and I got took. I got buffaloed.”
On Wednesday, Jay’s Asphalt Maintenance visited the home to fill in the cracks and reseal the driveway free of charge.
“When I saw the work he did, that he didn’t even finish the driveway, I took it upon myself to redo the driveway for them and treat them right,” said DeJardin.
“There is good in this world, people,” said Gail. “There is good.”
DeJardin tells Action 2 News this year has been the worst year for scammers the business has seen due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He reminds people to stay away from people knocking on doors with quotes for same-day service.
“Reputable companies, there’s so many of us in the Brown County, Kewaunee County, Door County areas. You don’t need to hire people knocking on your door,” said DeJardin.
When it comes to hiring a business for driveway repair, DeJardin says it is important to always ask what kind of product workers will be using.
“You want to look out for companies using asphalt emulsion. Asphalt emulsion does not smell very much at all. If anything, it smells like the earth,” said DeJardin. “It does not smell like diesel. It does not burn your eyes when you walk past it.”
If you believe you have fallen victim to a driveway repair scam, he advises you not to pay. Instead, keep scammers busy while contacting local law enforcement to make sure they are still on site when investigators arrive.
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