BBB, police warn of bad weather repair schemes

Elderly people being targeted more and more, police say

By Katrina Webber - Crime Fighters Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - It's a warning that Joan Chapin said she wishes she had heeded -- to watch for contractors who may be out only to take her money.

The 80-year-old North Side resident is still reeling from the costly lesson.

Her ordeal began after a hail storm battered San Antonio in April 2016, leaving the roof of her home with dents and holes.

"A young man came up and rang my doorbell out of the clear blue sky and said, 'May I look at your roof?," Chapin recalled one recent morning.

Placing her trust in the unexpected visitor, Chapin said she ended up agreeing to work with the roofing company he represented. Chapin eventually signed over her entire insurance check --- more than $51,000 -- to the company. 

Chapin said the company later returned about $11,000, but held onto the other $40,000, promising to make repairs.

After more than two years, she's still waiting.

Areas of her home have become damaged from the moisture that has seeped inside it.

"That's crazy, but I don't know what I was thinking," Chapin said.

Unfortunately, Chapin is not alone.

San Antonio police said they are seeing elderly people being preyed upon more and more by people who are out to steal their money.

Contractors of this sort tend to show up, especially after bad weather, such as a tornado or hail storm, police said.

The Better Business Bureau warns that solicitors who appear "out of the blue," as in Chapin's case, should be a red flag.

"They'll try to pressure you to sign a contract on the spot, and they're going to ask you for as much money up front as possible," said Miguel Segura, of the BBB.

Segura said older people often are seen as easier targets by what he calls "rogue contractors."

"They may not be physically able to climb up on the roof themselves, or they may not want to," Segura said.  "They usually have more disposable income to spend on repairs."

Instead of rushing into any sort of agreement, Segura suggests that homeowners take their time and do their research.

Segura said it's best to obtain estimates on any repair job from at least three different companies, and never pay for the work in full before it's complete, something Chapin said she wished she would have done.

Since then, Chapin has sent several demand letters to the company that she said took her money, but to no avail.

Police announced May 30 that they had arrested the man behind the company, Skylar Buras.

Although Buras denies taking advantage of anyone, police said Buras and his company, Buras Construction, did take money from four local seniors, including Chapin, without doing the repair work that was promised.

Records show Buras is out of jail after posting bond the day after his arrest.

Chapin, meanwhile, is holding onto hope that his arrest means she's closer to getting her money back in hopes of finally being able to pay for a new roof.

The San Antonio Police Department and the Bexar County District Attorney's Office weren't able to offer exact figures on the number of elder fraud cases.

In a written statement, District Attorney Nicolas "Nico" LaHood, said the DA's Elder Fraud Division has recovered more than $1.8 million in restitution in these types of cases since 2010.

LaHood said all of the recovered money "goes straight back to the pockets of the victims."

He said anyone who's victimized in this way should report it in a timely fashion to his office, police and the Better Business Bureau. 

The DA's office offers additional information on its website about preventing and spotting elder fraud.

For more details, click here.

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