Did This Electrician Pretend to Replace Perfectly Fine Breakers to Make Extra Money?
Inside Edition rented a house in Montclair, New Jersey, for an entire month, tricking it out with cameras and then calling the fix-it guys to see what happened. In the third installment, we called in electricians.
But before they arrived, we brought in Steve Siara with RC Electric to inspect the system.
"I’ve examined the entire electrical system. Everything in this panel works perfect, there is nothing wrong,” Siara said.
After his inspection, Siara created a simple problem that should be easy to spot and cheap to fix. At our request, he cut the power to several electrical outlets in the kitchen by simply opening the circuit breaker, loosening a screw and disconnecting a wire.
To fix the problem, all you need to do is reconnect the wire.
Next, Inside Edition called in various local electricians to see what they would do.
Many spotted the problem quickly and made the simple repair.
"You had a bad connection on the circuit breaker," one electrician explained, reconnecting the wire.
"Small fix. Easy," another said. "I'll be done in two seconds."
But that wasn't always the case. Ed Schiller with Schiller Electric took four cigarette breaks and spent more than an hour roaming the house, chatting on his phone, before he finally opened the circuit breaker.
"He's definitely running up the clock at this point," said Siara, who was watching in real time. He was relieved when Schiller finally found the issue and made the necessary repair.
But after wiping down the electrical panel with his sweaty T-shirt and taking yet another smoke break, Schiller walked in the door and shocked Guerrero by claiming several of the electrical breakers were burnt out and needed to be replaced.
"A couple of the breakers, half of them got burnt out and I’m almost positive that's what's going on here,” Schiller said.
But our expert, Siara, disputed Schiller's assessment. "There’s no burnt-out breakers," he said at the command post. "We have checked the panel completely. Everything is in perfect working order."
Schiller returned to the basement, where our team of producers watched Schiller cover the electrical panel without replacing a single breaker.
"It seems like he might be trying to scam the customer out of changing a bunch of breakers,” Siara said.
It was time for Guerrero to reveal her true identity, but before she did, Schiller made a creepy comment.
"Are you a model?” he asked.
“A model? No!” Guerrero replied.
“You're very beautiful. Your husband is a lucky man,” he said.
He then informed Guerrero that two of the breakers were not working, so he replaced them, and three were “warm, so I took them out.” He said he replaced those as well.
Suddenly, the cameras came out and Guerrero told him what was going on.
"I’m actually not the homeowner, my name is Lisa Guerrero from Inside Edition and I’d really like to know why you said you replaced these when we know you didn't,” she said.
“What do you mean?” a stunned Schiller asked.
“There was nothing wrong with our breakers, there was a wire loose, and that was the only problem downstairs,” she said.
“What are you saying?” he asked.
“I'm saying that you lied to me,” she told him.
"If that's how you feel, forget it then, no charge,” he told Guerrero. “I did what I thought was right and that's it."
Schiller has an F rating from the Better Business Bureau and he hasn't been licensed since 1994, according to New Jersey officials.
Here's how you can protect yourself when it comes to home repairs:
• Check if the contractor is licensed and/or a member of a recognized association that requires certain education and professional standards.
• Check to see if they are listed on the BBB to see what their rating is.
• Get multiple opinions and estimates.
• Ask about any service fees prior to scheduling an appointment.
• Do not pay upfront, prior to the job being completed.
• Make sure they accept credit card or check. Don’t accept cash-only deals.
• Get everything in writing.
• Avoid those who don’t dress or act professionally.
• Avoid contractors who pressure you to make a quick decision.
• Avoid door-to-door repairmen or those who solicit you.
• Look into their online reviews.
• Remember - you get what you pay for. Coupon deals that seem too good to be true usually are.
• Avoid companies with unmarked vehicles. Make sure the contractor you contact is able to tell you the official name of their business.
• Discuss the work you’re looking for before the contractor begins the job. Make sure they know not to proceed with any repairs before discussing the price with you.
• Don’t leave valuables out in plain sight.
• Make sure someone is home during any work that’s being done.
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