Blount County woman loses thousands to tree trimmer

LOUISVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Everything went fine for Dawn Isenberg the first time tree trimmers came to her house last fall. It was just a few months after her husband died. She had written a check to the company that did the work, but she said a few weeks later, one of the workers returned. After that, things did not go very well.

She hired Elite Tree Service in September. Isenberg says on that first job, there was no problem with the service. A big tree that had been next to her shed was cut and removed. Isenberg was pleased.

Limbs from other trees were removed as well, but Isenberg said in October a key employee with Elite Tree Service, David Marlow, returned. She said Marlow told her a big oak tree in her yard was diseased and needed to come down. So, she broke out her checkbook.

“I paid him $2,500 which was supposed to be half of the payment to take this tree out,” she said. The tree wasn’t removed. “Well, he changed his mind. He just said, I think we can save it.”

She said Marlow also cut another big tree, but not like she wanted.

“It just looks so bad and I used to take pride in my yard,” she said.

She said Marlow didn’t cut the tree to the ground level as she had requested. Then in December, she said David Marlow offered to “spruce up” her driveway.

“Wrote him a check for $4,500 because he said he would do my driveway and would grade it and have new gravel put in,” said Isenberg.

The driveway hasn’t been touched.

“Within 48 hours I contacted him and said, ‘David, I’m not going to do it. Maybe in the spring, but I’m not going to do it.’ He went ahead and said, ‘I’ve already ordered the gravel,'” she said.

The money hasn’t been returned, her driveway remains the same, and Marlow can’t be reached. Isenberg says she never asked for a contract.

The owner of Elite Tree Service, Stacy Ridge, says Marlow hasn’t worked there for at least six months. Ridge said he was unfamiliar with the additional work Marlow had done. Ridge said since Isenberg had written those checks to David Marlow in care of Elite, he apologized for what happened, but said his business didn’t owe her any money. Ridge said he did nothing wrong.

“I’ve been taken, I really have. It upsets me because it’s money I can really, really use right now,” said Isenberg.

When writing a check to a business, fill out the payee’s business name only. Don’t include the name of an individual on the check. Check your invoice for the correct payable name or call the owner directly to verify. Isenberg has contacted sheriff’s deputies and filed a report. As a widow, she doesn’t have the ability to remove the debris left behind.

Iseneberg says she’s learned an expensive lesson about check writing she won’t soon forget. Ridge said when time allows, he’s going to stop by her place and see what he can do. He maintains his business did nothing wrong.

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