Ill Winds Brought the Scammers

It wasn’t long after the winds from Hurricane Ian settled down that the scammers arrived. They came into the horrific aftermath from the East Coast and Midwest with dollar signs in their eyes. And we – victims of this second ill wind – were helpless to stop them.

They worked quickly to slap a covering over broken windows and damaged soffits. Then they begin ripping out wet drywall and insulation before the mold could set in. Or so they said.

The one group leader, Mike, was directing the placement of a dumpster when I approached him to see how things were going. As you may recall, I used to be a reporter and asking questions is what I do.

He said he was from Connecticut and brought his crew down the minute the storm was over. Now was the time to make money he said. “Look at this dumpster,” he said motioning to the substantial metal tub into which trash was being dumped. “Those guys are charging an arm and a leg because they can.”

And, you, Mike?

Mike and his crew did the four units that make up the neighbor’s condo building quickly and efficiently. Time is money, he mentioned to me in our conversation. If the association didn’t hire him to do the whole complex, then he would have to move on to some other disaster area.

They didn’t and he did. Move on, that is. Following him was another company that brought with them a crew of cheerful workers who didn’t speak English but seemed happy for the work – whatever it might be. They were here for about a month, ripping out more drywall – much more than was necessary in my view and in the opinion of others.

Cabinets went, mattresses, furniture. Nothing was spared unless you were on-site and protesting against their reckless actions. After all, they had keys to every condo in our complex. And authority to do what they thought was needed. Hang the cost.

Like I said, they were here for a month and then fired. Replacing them was another group with a similar workforce and led by an annoying man who drove a noisy gasoline-powered golf cart. He seemed to think he was quite the cutie, winking and waving whenever he saw me. That was after I confronted him about running into the little tree by my condo entrance not once but several times with his cart.

His group finally got around to doing the drywall in my poor neighbor’s condo on the second of our two stories. That condo lost part of its ceiling and was infested with mold by the time the crew got there. A good, well-trained drywall crew could have finished the place in two weeks. This group has been on the job for at least three weeks. That includes working Sundays, for which they are paid overtime.

I approached one of the young women who is part of the group the other day to ask how things were going. I am tired of the drywall particles and dust everywhere, the cigarette butts and trash – and, yes, the same golf cart with a different driver running into my little tree and knocking off branches.

“Do you speak English?”

“Yes,” she responded.

“Are you almost finished?” I asked, pointing toward the dismantled condo.

She laughed. “Oh no,” she said, then added. “I don’t speak English very well.”

In fairness to her, she was hired to do a job. Whether or not she and her fellow workers are qualified to do the work quickly and efficiently is not up to her. She’s a body who will learn eventually – or not.

When our part of the condo association had a Zoom meeting recently, it was revealed that $600,000 had already been spent on our three buildings. Such associations being the epitome of one-for-all living, everyone would be assessed the same amount for the repairs regardless of the damage to your personal living space, my man was told.

“I can’t figure out what they’ve done for that money,” my next-door neighbor said afterward. He and his wife just recently arrived and, fortunately, had minor damage.

I can, I thought. The scam artists have taken us to the cleaners and aren’t finished with us yet.

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