Concern growing in Aiken over out-of-town tree contractors

Out-of-town cleanup crews are heading to Aiken, going door to door in the badly damaged area looking for work.

Jackie Culpepper said she got a knock at her door but didn't hire the workers.

"It was going to cost around $1,500," Culpepper said. "We felt like it was almost a price gouging type of thing and decided we would get the equipment ourselves."

Aiken County Sheriff Michael Hunt said in a press conference Monday he has answered 25 to 30 calls from people just like Culpepper.

"This isn't unusual. We have had substantial damage," Hunt said. "The good and the bad are coming to make money and that's what we have - a bunch of folks trying to make money."

He warns that customers need to get more than one bid from contractors, make sure they're licensed in the state of South Carolina and pay attention closely to their behavior.

He also said in the county, by law, the sheriff's office can't stop companies from coming in, but in the city it's a different story.

"In the city limits of Aiken and North Augusta, to do business in the city, they must have a business license," Hunt said. "To go door to door, they must have a peddlers license."

Charges have not been filed as of yet in Aiken over false claims. But Sheriff Hunt said they won't hesitate.

"You want to come here to the county and be honest, that's fine, but if you want to be a bunch of crooks, and you do something that violates the law, we'll prosecute you."

To report suspicious behavior, call the sheriff's office non-emergency line at 803-648-6811.

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