Sioux Falls, SD
Many homeowners rely on snow removal services to dig them out.
When a Sioux Falls man began advertising his snow business on Facebook, many people jumped at the chance to hire someone at a reasonable price.
But now several of those same people have contacted KELOLAND Investigates after they paid up front and Justin Servold didn't show up.
KELOLAND Investigates looked into the problem and what's being done about it.
Their stories have a common thread; they all responded to an ad for snow removal by Justin Servold on Facebook.
"I saw this on social media and I thought, what a great idea," Craig Moore said.
"He said he was willing. He put together a contract," Kearsen Nyenhuis said.
Servold also wanted payment up front.
Kennecke: Did you trust him?
Nyenhuis: In that moment I did, honestly. He was a quiet young guy and nothing at that moment made me think he wasn't trustworthy.
Nyenhuis paid $350 for the entire season of snow removal at her house and her mother-in-law's.
Moore paid $170 for his driveway and sidewalks. Servold showed up, albeit a little late, after the first two snowfalls.
Moore: And then it just dropped off.
Kennecke: Never came back again?
Moore: No, no.
Kennecke: How many snowfalls would you say he didn't show up for?
Moore: At least four or five.
In Nyehuis' case, when it snowed a few days before Christmas, Servold was a no-show.
"I was really trying to give him the benefit of the doubt. And about a week later he had still never shoveled for us or my mother-in-law and he never reached out back to us," Nyenhuis said.
That's when the Nyehuises posted what happened on Facebook and got 369 comments, some reporting similar experiences with Servold
"And I saw a post, 'Has anybody else been in this situation?' It was like, 'Well yeah, here I am,'" Moore said.
"I see there were several other posts of people around the community and stuff who had been ripped off and it's hard earned money for them and it really put a bad name on the industry," Steve Whitman said.
Steve Whitman runs a snow removal business and tells us it's not unusual to take money up front.
"I have customers that prepay every year, but I only take on 15 prepays a season because it is a tough thing for a business to take on too many, which I believe is what he may have done. And maybe he was hoping it didn't snow because for a while there it didn't," Whitman said.
Whitman felt sorry for Servold's customers like Craig Moore, who recently has surgery on his wrist and elbow.
"I was stuck. So I came out here one handed and did as much as I could and then Steve got wind of it and came out and took it, did it all, pay it forward. He won't let me give him a check, Moore said.
"It just feels good and it's the right thing to do honestly," Whitman said.
But up until now the two men hadn't met face to face.
Moore: Good to finally meet you.
Whitman: Nice to meet you.
Moore: Thank you so much for everything you've done for me.
Whitman: No problem. It’s the least I could do.
Moore: I appreciate everything you've done. It really means a lot to me.
Whitman: Hopefully everybody comes forward with what he did so they can get a case on him.
Moore: It restores my faith.
"I feel it's a crime. It's a relatively small amount of money, but if you add up how many people he's taking advantage of, that's a large amount of money and clearly he's not providing the service he's out there advertising," Nyenhuis said.
Servold's business numbers were disconnected, so KELOLAND Investigates paid a visit to the address on Servold's business page.
A man who answered the said he was sleeping and couldn't get him up.
Servold later called and said he was declaring bankruptcy and planned to pay everyone back. He refused an on-camera interview.
KELOLAND Investigates checked Servold's background and he has several small claims judgments against him.
A Harrisburg couple recently filed a small claims lawsuit against him, saying he took $200 from them and never showed up to remove snow.
Sioux Falls police tell me several of his customers have filed police reports and that they are investigating the matter.
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