Miller, 64, owns Mountain High Landscaping and Lighting. He was setting up a display at the Colorado Springs Home and Landscaping Show when a Gazette photographer snapped his picture.
Home shows are a place for homeowners to get ideas for landscaping their yards or to find someone to build a deck, patio or retaining wall. Typically, they are held in the spring and attract several thousand people in a weekend.
Gazette reader Bert Stewart attended the 2010 home show and that’s where he met Miller. He was so impressed with Miller’s display that he hired him to build a $7,000 patio at his Chipita Park home.
He paid Miller about half in advance, or $3,758, on April 17, 2010, and expected Stewart to start promptly.
Then he disappeared. Stewart logged the phone call after phone call and has copies of emails he and his wife sent trying to get Miller to start work on the patio.
He told them he was sick and had excuses why he was a no-show. Then all communication stopped, Stewart said. So, on June 22, 2010, Stewart sued Miller for $3,853 — the amount of his downpayment and court costs.
Miller didn’t shown up for court and on Aug. 31, 2010, Magistrate Judge Daniel Winograd ruled in Stewart’s favor, ordering Miller to pay.
Of course, Miller never paid.
So you can imagine the shock Stewart felt when he saw the photo of Miller in Saturday’s Gazette.
But he wasn’t the only shocked Gazette reader that day. Peggy Bohn of Colorado Springs was equally shocked. That’s because Miller did the same thing to her in 2009. For a lot more money.
Bohn said she paid Miller half in advance for a $15,000 retaining wall project in her yard. But the wall never got built. Like Stewart, Bohn sued and won a judgment.
When Miller failed to pay, she went back to court and got a default judgment. Miller promised to repay Bohn over 18 months. He gave her $100 in January 2010 and $100 in February 2010. Then the payments stopped.
Bohn and Stewart had the same reaction when they saw Miller’s photo. Bohn wanted to go down to the home show and stand there warning people to avoid hiring the landscaper. But she decided to stay home.
Stewart, however, hopped in his car, drove down and confronted Miller, demanding he pay the $3,800 he was owed. Miller said he didn’t have the cash.
Bohn and Stewart want to protect anyone else from falling victim to Miller, and suggest anyone considering hiring him or another contractor follow the advice of Carol Odell of the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado.
Odell strongly urges everyone to check the BBB’s website and see a company’s rating. Miller’s Mountain High had an “F” rating for three complaints.
Go to the BBB’s consumer page to check the rating for a business, to search for a BBB-accredited business or file a complaint.
She also said consumers should vigorously check references, make sure a contractor is licensed, insured and bonded and never pay 50 percent up front.
At most, give a contractor one-third. Or go to their supplier to open an account and pay directly for materials. Or pay on delivery.
A reader suggests contacting the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, 303-757-5611, for advice when researching potential landscape contractors.