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Vancouver Island senior speaks out after suspected paving scam leaves Ontario company caught in crossfire

A Vancouver Island family who believe they were targeted by scammers is speaking out after they were charged more than $10,000 for shoddy paving services under the name of a legitimate business in Ontario.

It’s part of a concerning trend of home services scams using low-grade, excess materials on Vancouver Island, according to Nanaimo RCMP and the Better Business Bureau of B.C. — one that’s costing consumers thousands of dollars and catching lawful businesses in the crossfire.

Jim Gower, 83, says he was rushing out the door of his North Saanich home to a choir rehearsal on Dec. 15 when two men knocked and offered him a “good deal” to pave his driveway with materials they said were leftover from another job.

The men, who introduced themselves as James and Jason, said they were brothers and worked for Flocon Construction & Excavating, with logos on their trucks to match.

Gower said he had been thinking about redoing the driveway and agreed to a quoted price per square foot for a small part of the driveway “without thinking.”

But when he got back home later that day, the men had paved the entire driveway with workmanship Gower said looked poor — and they wanted $14,000 for the job.

“I remember driving off downtown having told them to go ahead thinking, ‘Gosh, I may have committed myself to as much as $2,000 here,” he said. “And then to come back home and discover he’s talking about $14,000. It’s a bit of a shock.”

A long driveway unevenly paved.
Kate Gower says a friend in construction came over and said the material appeared to be used, poor quality asphalt. Her mother was also “devastated” by its impact on parts of her garden. (Submitted by Kate Gower)

James said he would accept $10,000 when Gower hesitated.

“He told me to go to the bank to get a draft for that amount and had one of his workers follow me in a truck,” said Gower.

Gower began to question the tactics on the way to the bank, and the teller told him not to go through with the transaction once he told her.

He told the man who followed him he needed to think about it, and was given a GMail address scrawled on a piece of paper.

“And we’ve not seen hide nor hair of them since,” Gower said. 

Gower and his daughter called Flocon the day after the pavement job, and owner Jorge Flores told them it hadn’t been his company who did the work because they don’t operate in B.C. at all.

“And I realized that this was way bigger than my beloved father and our driveway. This was something else,” said Kate Gower.

Similar scams afoot on Vancouver Island

While the Gowers have not paid a cent to the two brothers, Nanaimo RCMP say several people have paid thousands of dollars to a group targeting the Westshore, Sidney and Victoria with offers of home and yard services.

“In each case, they approach various residences and offer to complete roofing, gutter, driveway or paving services. For any work done payment is expected up front, the work is not completed and the service they provide is sub par at best,” RCMP said in a release last week.

Flocon is not listed in the company names RCMP say have been used, but Flores says he has received several calls from people saying they are out thousands of dollars since early November.

“I’m getting phone calls, like I said, threatening to sue me, to find out where I live and I have to explain to them like it’s not me,” he told CBC News in an interview.

One caller accused someone posing as a Flocon employee of threatening and swearing at him, while another claimed her elderly father was also followed to the bank for an $18,000 charge.

Another said they had paid thousands of dollars but no one ever returned to complete the work, leaving a pile of asphalt on their yard.

“We’re talking about over $5,000, $10,000, $15,000 worth of service that you’re supposed to provide and then it’s not there,” said Flores.

Flores says he has reported the apparent impersonation of his business to Victoria police, but says he can’t afford a lawsuit even if police do find the perpetrators.

“We’re trying to make a good, hard earned living and people are just going on and taking everybody’s money and the wrong way,” he said.

WATCH | Tips to avoid rental scams in B.C.:

Expert tips on how to avoid rental scams

The increasingly expensive housing market may be causing a rise in rental scams, experts say. CBC’s Maurice Katz talked to Neesha Nothi with the Better Business Bureau to learn about the red flags you should watch out for.

Handshake deals not good enough, says BBB

Police and consumer protection agencies say homeowners should do their research thoroughly and take their time when making decisions about large projects given the rise in scams.

Last year, a report by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) found home improvement scams were the riskiest in Canada, losing victims an average of $1,900. That’s up from 2021, when they were the fourth riskiest scam.

Aaron Guillen with BBB in B.C. says it’s essential to get everything in writing, check BBB.org for fraud or scam reports and ask to speak to past clients even when someone charismatic is trying to sell you something at the door.

“Take five minutes, take five hours, take five days,” said Guillen. “The best way to avoid these sorts of scams, especially when it comes to home improvement, is doing just a little bit more thorough research.”

Comparing quotes from multiple companies can also help eliminate the risk, said Guillen.

Uncertainty about future costs

Jim Gower says while he’s glad he hasn’t paid the men anything, he’s worried about what will happen if they come back and plans to report it to the police.

The original work has also destroyed parts of his wife’s garden, and he paid a landscaper $400 to clean up the edges so it looks a bit neater.

However, Jim and his daughter say they are concerned about the cost to redo the pavement if it doesn’t hold up in the long run.

A friend in construction inspected the driveway and believes the material is something called “asphalt milling.”

“It’s what gets scraped off the top of a road when they’re going to repave. So it’s not worth very much at all,” said Kate. “Will it all wash away in the next rain? We don’t really know.”

Her father hopes sharing will help others avoid the humbling experience.

“I’m surprised at my own behaviour, I think, more than anything else,” he said.