Flood victims targeted after Hurricane Harvey

As we remember Hurricane Harvey one year later, how can we forget the amazing stories of neighbor helping neighbor? Unfortunately, not all Harvey stories have a positive outcome.      

It’s difficult to imagine someone suffering after Harvey and having someone else target them to take advantage, but it happened. There are many stories of accused criminals who tried to gain from someone else’s horrible loss.             

Who can forget the unbelievable surveillance video of looters stealing from a closed, Harvey-flooded Houston beauty supply store? Similarly, Thomas Gamelin is now serving twenty years in prison after being convicted of taking thousands of dollars worth of electronics and cigarettes as the city sat shut down and flooded. 

Then there are the contractors. Aaron Oaks is one of many accused of taking cash from flood victims and never completing the job. Oaks was arrested in May and is still awaiting his day in court.

Houston resident Bettie Sam has paid several contractors well into the thousands of dollars and one year after Harvey left her house underwater, she still isn’t in her home. 

“I've gone through three different contractors,” explains Sam. The 76-year-old woman and her 83-year-old husband are living in a FEMA trailer in their yard. “But we're pulling through. My husband has a lot of medical problems.”

The Better Business Bureau® of Greater Houston and South Texas says since Harvey, there have been hundreds of complaints about crooked contractors.

"The contractor abandons the job or leaves the work very shoddy and then the client is contacting them and they’re not able to get a response,” says Leah Napoliello with the BBB of Greater Houston and South Texas. Before hiring someone to repair your home, Napoliello suggests finding out if they have an office in Houston, how long the company has been in business and be sure to check their references and reviews.

”Look it up online, check with the Better Business Bureau, ask your friends and family,” adds Napoliello, also reminding you never to pay the contractor before the work is completed.

Meantime, Mrs. Sam still visits inside her home but has no idea when she will live there again. 

“It's been tough, but I'm pretty strong,” adds Sam.