Fox 8 Defenders: Military vet scammed by repairman

Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 11:17 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - An Iraq War veteran says he was scammed by an appliance repairman who took hundreds of dollars without doing any work. After the veteran did some digging, he realized the same repairman was the subject of a number of Fox 8 Defenders reports.

Michael Dougherty and his family had just moved to New Orleans when, one day last February, water was everywhere.

“We couldn’t stop the flow of water going to it, because there was constant water,” Dougherty said. “So we had to keep bailing it out.”

The upstairs washing machine was wreaking havoc on the ceiling below inside the more than 100-year-old home.

“This is a very old house, so that’s something that can be problematic, yes,” Dougherty said.

Dougherty’s wife did a quick online search for a repairman and found Alvin Birotte.

“My wife reached out to a number of companies and he was the first one to respond,” Dougherty said. “I thought he seemed very professional. He was very personable. I liked the estimate that he gave us. It was very detailed and listed all of the parts that we needed and so forth, and everything seemed great.”

Dougherty said Birotte asked for $600 to cover the parts up front. So, he paid up.

“We gave him cash, what cash we had at the time,” Dougherty said. “He wouldn’t take a check because we just moved from Florida, so it was an out-of-state check. And the rest, we paid him via Cash App.

“He said, ‘Give me about 10 days for the parts.’ So, after about 10 days when we didn’t hear anything, she contacted him. That may have been the one and only time she was actually able to reach him after we gave him the deposit. Because after that, he just wouldn’t take the calls anymore.”

Dougherty says he also tried texting Birotte, asking for his money back. But he said he never heard from Birotte again and was forced to just buy a new washing machine.

What Dougherty didn’t know at the time, but found out later after some digging, is that the Fox 8 Defenders had reported extensively on Birotte. In 2020, Nancy Allen told Fox 8 she had been scammed by the same repairman. She was out $186 for work she says he never performed after her refrigerator stopped working.

“I wrote a check, and he cashed it the same day,” Allen told Fox 8. “Because I just looked at his website and nowhere else, I made the assumption that everything was OK.”

Fox 8′s first report on Birotte dates back to 2016. Wendy Hawkins said Birotte charged her $250 for work he never performed.

“Then, the next day, he didn’t come,” Hawkins said. “I took off of work. I was home and he didn’t come. He didn’t call. He said, ‘Oh, the part’s not in, I’m-a come tomorrow.’ Took off again from work. Once again, he didn’t come or call.”

Fox 8 was able to contact Birotte after our first story aired in 2016 and he refunded Hawkins her money. But we didn’t have the same luck after our stories aired in 2020.

On the Better Business Bureau’s website, Alvin Birotte has two listings: One for his company Ace Appliance Repair, the other for New Orleans Appliance Repair. That company has an “F” rating.

Ace Appliance Repair has a consumer alert on top of the page from the BBB that says, “This company has a pattern of complaints concerning taking fees upfront for appliance repair and not returning to complete the repair.”

The BBB told Fox 8 it received another complaint about Birotte just last week. And now, two years after our most recent story on Birotte, Dougherty said he can’t believe he’s now fallen victim to him as well.

“We were quite desperate to get it fixed, because of the water damage,” Dougherty said. “Knowing what I know now, I would’ve done my due diligence and checked the reviews. Because, if I had done so, I would’ve seen some negative reviews as well as the Fox 8 Defenders reports from two years ago.”

Dougherty said that’s why he has now reached out to the Fox 8 defenders.

“I would certainly like to see this not happen to anyone else, if it can be prevented,” he said.

Dougherty said he wants to raise awareness about what happened to him, an Iraq War veteran who has given so much for his country, now trying to help others.

After a few tries, Fox 8 was again able to reach Birotte by phone. He said he didn’t remember Dougherty, nor remembering taking $600 dollars from him. After we put the two in touch, Dougherty told us that Birotte said he would refund the money that Dougherty paid for the parts. As of Tuesday (Sept. 20), Dougherty still is waiting for that refund.

The Better Business Bureau said it’s always a good idea to check out a company or service provider on its website before using them, so you’ll have an idea if the company is legit.

If you have a consumer complaint you’d like us to look into, call the Fox 8 Defenders, staffed with volunteers from the National Council of Jewish Women at 1-877-670-6397. Or click here to fill out our online complaint form, which is the easiest way to reach us.

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