The blood and gore of crime scenes have made hits of TV shows like CSI. But in real life, what happens after crime scene investigators go home?
Suffering families have to figure out how to clean up the bloody mess.
INSIDE EDITION’s Lisa Guerrero spoke with three grieving Texas families, who all hired a national crime scene cleanup company called Aftermath, Inc. when their children tragically committed suicide.
Fighting back tears, Cindy Karle told Guerrero, that she was distraught after her only son took his life.
“He died of a gunshot wound to the head,” said Karle.
But Karle, Rick and Brenda Donato and Steve and Shannon Randall all say Aftermath took advantage of their anguish by burying them in bills filled with inflated and unnecessary charges during the darkest chapter of their lives.
“Every time I talk about Aftermath I get physically sick to my stomach because of what they're doing,” said Karle who was billed just under $17,000 by Aftermath.
The Donato’s bill was approximately $22,000. The Randall’s bill came in just under $44,000.
Lisa Guerrero asked, “Do you feel taken advantage of?”
“It's just outrageous. They need to be stopped,” said Rick Donato.
To see how Aftermath operates, INSIDE EDITION rented a suburban Phoenix home and spent a day transforming a small bedroom into an elaborately staged crime scene.
In order to give our fake crime scene an authentic look, we enlisted the help of Dale Cillian, the owner of Biopro a Phoenix, AZ based biohazard removal company and Hollywood special effects expert Keith Mosca. They created a scene that looked just like it was a gun shot wound to the head.
“I've been on thousands of [crime scenes] in 28 years and this looks real,” said Cillian.
Then we installed hidden cameras in the house and called Aftermath to report a suicide. The next day, a three man team showed up in a large white van.
Guerrero took a supervisor named Aaron and his assistant up to the bedroom to survey the damage.
After an initial inspection, Aaaron said: “It doesn’t actually look like very much as far as I can tell.”
But what seemed like a quick, easy job would soon get very complicated.
“We should do the whole room because it was a gunshot right. Usually with gun shots there's always a mist of blood for hours in the room,” an Aftermath assistant explained.
“Really? Wow!” said Guerrero.
Watching on a monitor in another room nearby, Cillian, who's also an Aftermath competitor, said that’s ridiculous.
Aaron told Guerrero the only way we could be sure the room was safe would be to remove all the furniture, wash all the walls with chemicals and tear up the carpet.
“How much is this going to cost?” asked Guerrero.
“Umm. Let's see. Total is $19,985,” he answered.
“$20,000!?! That’s really expensive,” exclaimer Guerrero.
“I'm dumbfounded. I'm just stunned,” said Cillian after hearing Aftermath’s estimate of $19,985.
Cillian says it shouldn't cost more than $3,000 to do all the work and is a two hour job at most.
But that’s not what Aftermath told us.
“How long will it take?” asked Guerrero.
“About 7 and a half hours,” said Aaron.
Aaron then assured Guerrero that homeowners insurance would cover all the charges.
“Everything is getting billed to the insurance,” he said.
“So my insurance is going to pay $20,000?” Guerrero asked.
“Yes,” he answered.
Cindy Karle, the Donatos and the Randalls all say Aftermath made the same promise to them, but after they got the bills they say their insurance paid little if anything.
Aaron and his team then hauled in all sorts of equipment, cordoned off the room with plastic sheet wrapping and biohazard tape, and then suited up in special hazmat suits complete with respirators.
Before they started any serious cleaning, Guerrero went in to ask some questions.
Pushing aside the plastic sheet wrap covering the doorway, Guerrero approached Aaron and his crew. “Aaron, I'm Lisa Guerrero with INSIDE EDITION. This isn't a real crime scene. We staged this because were looking into some serious allegations that some grieving families have made against Aftermath.”
“Okay,” said Aaron.
“Sir, you gave me an estimate of $20,000 for a job that according to our expert shouldn't cost more than a few thousand dollars.”
Aaron said, “I don’t deal with prices and I don’t really feel comfortable about talking about this anymore.”
Afterwards Tim Reifsteck, one of the co-founders of Aftermath, agreed to speak with Guerrero at the company’s headquarters outside Chicago, IL. Reifsteck took Guerrero on a tour of their training facility after they both suited up in Aftermath’s specially designed hazmat suits.
“We get into some messy situations, some horrible situations,” said Reifsteck.
“Isn't it true that these suits, all of the supplies, all of these work hours are just an opportunity to jack up the bill?” asked Guerrero.
“Absolutely not,” answered Reifsteck. “We completely disagree with that.”
Reifsteck says Aftermath is a highly technical company and insists their procedures go above and beyond to protect customers and employees from bio-hazards like HIV and hepatitis.
But former Aftermath supervisor Tra Him disagrees.
“They are trying to rip people off,” said Him. “They would tell us to cheat, to lie to the customers. To overcharge for supplies and suits for gloves.”
When Guerrero asked Reifsteck about Him’s allegations, Reifsteck said: “We very much disagree with what he's saying. We have no idea why he's making those statements.”
But many customers like Cindy Karle say Aftermath added insult to injury by putting liens on their homes, when they couldn’t afford to pay the sky-high bills.
“It’s not right. They can't do this to people and keep getting by with it because people are afraid, afraid of losing their homes,” said Karle while fighting back tears.
“I have never foreclosed on a person’s home. Ever!” Reifsteck told Guerrero.
“But you've threatened to and that scares people on top of the enormous grief they're already suffering through,” said Guerrero.
“We hear them. We absolutely do and that’s the reason we no longer perform liens,” replied Reifsteck.
Karle, the Donatos, the Randalls and several other Dallas area families have now hired attorney Ted Lyon and are suing for fraud.
“What their doing here is absolutely morally wrong,” said Lyon.
Aftermath denies all the allegations in the customers’ lawsuit, and says their employees should never promise bills will be fully paid by insurance.