AG: tree removal company in a breathtaking scheme

Posted at: 12/13/2012 11:43 PM
By: Dan Levy

LAKE GEORGE - New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has filed a lawsuit against a Lake George area tree removal company for allegedly gouging customers following Tropical Storm Irene.

Towering pine trees and tropical force winds are mortal enemies, which explains why John and Noel Brothers' Lake George property looked like a battlefield in the August 2011 aftermath of Irene.

According to residents, it wasn't just the storm people had to worry about.

"I'm telling you that while the winds were flying, and the trees were coming down, they (contractors) were out there attempting to bilk the consumer," said Paul Ryan, an attorney who represents several allegedly scammed clients, including the Brothers'.

After Irene blew through the Adirondacks, some American Tree Company workers stopped by at the Brothers' house, removed the fallen trees, and then handed the elderly couple a bill for about $50,000.

"They proceeded to charge them three times the going rate of what someone would have aggressively billed them to begin with," Ryan pointed out.

On Thursday, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuit against three officers of the American Tree Company; John Stranahan, Daniel Stranahan, and Merwin "Skip" Stranahan, accusing them of egregious price gouging. There were 27 alleged victims.

Schneiderman says the "respondents preyed on vulnerable consumers victimized once by Tropical Storm Irene and a second time by a price gouging scheme, and other repeated illegal, fraudulent and deceptive conduct. The tactics used during a time of crisis in the community shocks the conscience."

The attorney general accuses the Stranahans of failing to disclose their fees ahead of time, failing to provide written contracts, which is required by law, and, in some cases, writing in prices after the contracts were signed.

According to our news partners at the Post Star, back in 2002, John and Skip Stranahan were charged with operating one of the largest illegal dump sites ever discovered in the town of Queensbury.

Also, according to an e-mail received from Peter Brothers, because is dad is 84, and because his parents were taken advantage of, their insurance company reimbursed their out-of-pocket expenses.

Paul Ryan, their attorney, who has other clients, says he's not very confident others will be made whole since American Tree Company is bankrupt.