SECO Employee Aids Swindled Couple

SECO Employee Aids Swindled Couple

SECO Energy’s Robert Stevens, an Energy Services Specialist, possesses the brain of an investigator and the heart of a philanthropist. Robert answered the call when an elderly couple required SECO’s assistance, found the cause of the members’ energy-use concerns and provided aid when they needed it most.


SECO helps members save energy and lower their bills by performing energy audits on members’ homes.The request may be in response to a bill that is abnormally high or from members who are simply looking for ways to save energy by making small changes in their homes/lifestyles.


In early May, SECO members Mr. and Mrs. George Somariva who reside in Lady Lake, received an electric bill that was much higher than usual. The Somarivas were concerned because of a previous, negative experience with their home warranty company and its contractor, so they called SECO for help. Within just a few days, Robert visited the Somariva’s home, completed an energy audit and found the problem. Mr. and Mrs. Somariva’s heat strips were heating the home at the same time the A/C was running to cool the home – causing the high energy usage.


In early 2016, the Somarivas contracted with a home warranty company that included HVAC services. The home warranty company sent a technician and there was significant confusion over what needed repair/replacement. In the end, the Somarivas gave the contractor a check representing a $2,000 deposit for a new unit. The check was cashed but they never heard from the contractor again.


SECO reached out to the contractor and to the home warranty management. Unfortunately, their recollections are contradictory. Some recompense was offered by the home warranty company but the Somarivas were not made whole. The couple contacted Seniors vs. Crime with their story and the agency helped them file complaints with Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation against both the contractor and the home warranty company. Seniors vs. Crime determined that the contractor was not licensed as his online profile suggests and that he has a criminal record in Florida.


The Somarivas paid for a home warranty. They paid a contractor sent by the home warranty company. Once Robert determined the heat strip issue with the AC unit, they had to pay a reputable HVAC company to fix the problem – to the tune of $500.


After this large outlay, the Somarivas remained distressed because they still had two high energy bills to pay. Robert’s heart went out to the retired couple. He asked SECO to help these long-time members with their energy-use issue, and SECO agreed. The cooperative allocated a donation of Angel Funds from the company’s Pennies from Heaven program to offset the high electric bills.


Robert offers this advice to SECO members, “If you believe you have a problem with your HVAC unit, call SECO first. A trained Energy Services Specialist will conduct a home energy audit, and we can usually help members identify the cause of an HVAC problem. SECO’s no-cost energy audit can potentially save members thousands in needless HVAC repairs or replacements recommended by contractors looking to make a quick buck.”


The Somarivas are grateful to SECO for help during this ordeal. Mr. Somariva stated, “I’m glad we called SECO and spoke to Robert. He’s a knowledgeable guy, he found the problem quickly, and we had it repaired the same day. It’s a shame that Total Maintenance of Tampa won’t stand by their warranty or their word and that their contractor, Chris Martin, was not reputable or licensed. But we are thankful to SECO and Robert for their help.”


SECO Energy members can make an appointment for a free in-home energy audit at their home or conduct an energy audit online with SECO’s Home Energy Assessment. “Like” SECO’s Facebook page and “follow” @SECOEnergy on Twitter for news releases and cooperative updates.

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