Police: Be wary of scam paving contractors

Posted June 19, 2009, at 9:27 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:16 p.m.

LINCOLN, Maine — Police are warning residents from Bangor north to Houlton to beware of a scam by itinerant paving crews offering driveway paving work at “reasonable prices,” Lincoln Town Manager Lisa Goodwin said Friday.

One crew of pavers, Goodwin said, falsely claimed to be working for the town of Lincoln. Its representative told residents they were paving a nearby street for the town and had leftover asphalt.

“The Town of Lincoln has a contract with Sunrise Materials for all its paving needs. These ‘gypsy pavers’ are not working with the town on any projects,” Goodwin said in a statement released Friday.

Bangor police issued similar warnings on Thursday.

According to Lincoln Public Works Director David Lloyd, such outfits usually proliferate during downturns in the economy. They might have appropriate equipment, but they usually are not businesses properly registered with the state.

They pass out bogus information and the work they do is of poor quality.

“We see this every two or three years,” Lloyd said Friday. ‘Somebody will come in for a week, and then you don’t see them ever again. They say they do good work, but they use a real cheap maintenance mix [of asphalt], a sand mix.

“It looks good when they put it down, but after two or three years it cracks and it ruts really bad. There’s no strength to it whatsoever,” Lloyd added. “A good driveway should last 10 to 15 years, depending on its usage.”

One, “Bituminous Paving” has probably been in town or in the Lincoln Lakes region since Wednesday, Lloyd said. He and Goodwin assumed the company is from Massachusetts as that is where its vehicles were registered, but when she tried to bring up the Web site listed on a business card the workers passed out, she learned that the site did not exist, she said.

Another worker told Lloyd that the company was out of Bangor, he said.

Lloyd said he did not know whether any residents had been scammed. “All I know is this one company that’s in town,” he said.

Police Chief William Flagg did not return a telephone call seeking comment on Friday.

Cheap paving work is usually underdug, Lloyd said. It is often 2 or 3 inches thick at a driveway’s edge, but thins to a half-inch at the driveway’s center. Good driveways take hours to dig and finish properly. Quick work is a sign of poor craftsmanship, he said.

Another sign is the story itself. Reputable companies that work for municipalities, businesses or residents do not look to sell excess asphalt to third parties, particularly at a time when burgeoning oil prices are making asphalt very expensive.

Scam companies will promise one price, say $1,000, at a job’s start, but double or triple the bill once the work is done, claiming they used more asphalt than expected. Lloyd urged that anyone suspecting fraud to call police immediately and report the company.

The Attorney General’s Office guide for police and district attorneys suggests that homeowners and police should ask whether the driveway paver has a permanent place of business in town and if not, to show its state registration card. Call the Licensing Division at the Maine Department of Professional and Financial Regulation at 624-8603 to confirm the seller is registered.

“The police can do a quick check on them if they are a local company or a fly-by-night outfit in town for a week,” Lloyd said.

“You want to go with a local company, someone who is reputable and in the area,” he added. “If you have problems with a job, they are the ones who will come back and fix it for you.”

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