Resident believes she was victim of “lawn services” scam

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Photo/Anthony Victoria Maria Benitez (who refused to show her face) holding up what she says is mulch from her lawn. She alleges she is a victim of a scam that is affecting other residents in the region.

An incident between a resident and gardener is being construed by the former as fraud. Despite the claim, the Colton Police Department, after a complete investigation, explained the incident is a civil matter, not a criminal issue.

Resident Maria Benitez–who lives in the 1800 block of N. Watwood Avenue–purchased Fertilizer and Seed/Topping services from gardener Eduardo Lopez on August 12. According to Benitez, Lopez informed her that the fertilizer was organic and drought resistant.

After providing a brief demonstration of how the product works (it consisted of Lopez sprinkling fertilizer on the grass and watering it), the gardener explained to Benitez that the fertilizer sold at $8 per bag. She was then encouraged by Lopez to reseed her lawn with Marathon Sod (perennial grass) instead of St. Augustine.

“This is why I feel so duped,” she explained. “My ex-husband was a landscaper and I remember him reseeding the lawn with St. Augustine seed. ‘We watered the grass three times a day’, I told the gardener. ‘Not this kind,’ he told me. ‘This you only have to water twice a week for two minutes and it will grow.’”

After Lopez reseeded the lawn and placed the fertilizer on the soil, he wrote an invoice (without a company name or central location) for 35 bags of fertilizer, amounting to approximately $1500.

“I didn’t have that type of money,” she said. “But I know how hard these people work. I understand. So in good faith, I paid them for the services. I gave them $500 in cash and a check for $800.”

What concerned Benitez thereafter was the rapidness of Benitez’s cashing of the check, as well as the name he told her to write the check under.

“He told me to make the check out William Menjivar,” said Benitez. “They told me they would be back in two weeks to check on the progress of the grass. I was never contacted. This was a scheme. This is not a fertilizer. It’s just mulch.”

She alluded that Eduardo Lopez and William Menjivar could be the same person. Lopez did not respond to numerous calls.

Last week during the City Council meeting, Benitez expressed her concerns to council members and police staff.

“I’m here to ask for your help and make the city aware of the scam that a lot of the citizens are falling victim of,” she said. “I have gone to the police department with no avail. Something needs to be done about this. I need help from somebody.”

Corporal Ray Mendez said the department went “above and beyond” to inquire about the civil complaint. He explained that the incident was investigated by a detective. After thorough analysis, it was determined that services were performed and rendered and mutually agreed upon.

“We provided her with copious amounts of information,” Mendez said. “The incident was investigated by a detective. We determined that it is a civil case. We encouraged her to seek legal counsel and follow up with an attorney.”

Councilman David Toro–whose district encompasses Benitez’s home–said it is an unfortunate situation that he hopes is resolved.

“It’s unfortunate someone was a victim of fraud,” he said. “If this is the case, we have to do everything we can to stop this person and solve the issue.”

 

5 COMMENTS

  1. Eduardo Lopez aka Alvaro Ortega did the same thing to my mother. The promise was to till the existing lawn, clean-up, fertilize and seed. All that was done was pour soil on the dead grass. Then my mother was charged $500 for 20 square feet. SCAM ALERT!

  2. I was swindled by this same person in Ontario. I would like more information please. Can someone please contact me about this matter? Thank you. Kim Brown

  3. Just experienced this myself in Chino Hills. All the warning signs were there, same mode of operation as described in the story, and all to the tune of $900.00! Feeling pretty stupid right now, but the high pressure and fast talk persuaded me!

  4. Same thing happened to us in Bakersfield. We feel like such idiots for falling for it. First and most obvious red flag which we ignored, was when we asked how much and the guy couldn’t give an estimate. He stated each yard was different. So here comes another guy. We asked him about an estimate and he ignored the question. I didn’t like it then but stupid us, we proceeded. We walked inside and when we came out about 5 minutes later, they were finishing up. They used 121 bags and told us the total was up to $1800. 121 bags is $968, but of course they’ve got some story about this and that. We were furious. I’ll tell you we didn’t pay $1800. We did pay, but not what they wanted. We wrote a check and they kept giving us some bs about having trouble cashing credit union checks. I don’t care jackass. Take it or leave it. Of course, they took it. I made sure to let them know what they did was a flat out scam and I let them have it morally. Our grass is already burning due to the over fertilizing. That’s even if they used real “organic” fertilizer. What we are doing to stop this theft is alerting our neighbors. It’s too late for us. If we can stop other people from being scammed, then we have won.

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