By IVY HERRON
An 81-year-old Brazil woman, the recent victim of an apparent home improvement fraud, is encouraging anyone approached by an "unwanted" handyman in the past month to contact the Brazil City Police Department with the details.
Authorities say Bette Spicka was charged more than four times the normal cost to do repair work to her driveway and a cement patio at her home on East Hendrix Street.
"I don't want this to happen to anyone else," Bette said. "This has put a definite strain on me and my family. I'm frightened and a little leery of people now."
On Aug. 17, a stranger knocked on Bette's door while she was having lunch with her daughter.
"He just showed up and told me I had a crack in my driveway that needed repaired. He said he'd do part of it to give me a sample of his work and I told him to leave his card in the mailbox," she said.
Bette says the young man -- somewhere in his 20s or 30s, 5' 9" -- roamed around her yard looking at the sidewalks and patio area while she had lunch with her daughter. After her daughter left, the man approached Bette again.
"He said the crack in the driveway would erupt, and when it did it would cost me a couple thousand dollars to repair the whole driveway," Bette said, but added that wasn't all that needed repaired.
"Then he told me the crack in the patio needed fixed too and that he'd give me a good deal on doing them both. Instead of $350, he'd only charge $280," she said. "He used a caulking gun to fill the cracks.
"After he left, I thought to myself, 'What did you just do? A bag of cement don't cost that much.' I never paid attention to those cracks before."
The deaths of two family members made for an emotional summer for Bette and her family, which could be the reason that her guard was down. The guilt and shame she now feels from being conned on top of her grief is a heavy burden to bear, but Bette says she will get through it all.
"The Lord has been good to me during my years. Maybe my age has something to do with me being so upset, but I've never experienced anything like this before and I'm a little shaken. I feel so useless to be conned like that," she said. "But I'm praying for that person, praying that he gets a lesson from the Lord on doing right, praying because there's something wrong with him. If you're honest, you'll find a way to provide for yourself and your family - God always gives you a way, and its not through being dishonest."
Brazil City Police Chief Mark Loudermilk says it has been eight or nine years since the department has worked a home improvement fraud case.
"These cases can be difficult to build because of the criteria needed to prove fraud," Loudermilk said. "One important factor is the age of the victim, another is the cost of the repairs charged. This case involves a senior citizen that was charged $280 for something that could have been done for less than $20. This is a fraud case."
People need to turn away any unsolicited repairman that comes to their home and offers to repair something really cheap, according to Loudermilk.
"If you didn't call them, it's a scam," he said.
If anyone has information regarding similar incidents that might have occurred in the past month they need to contact the Brazil City Police Department at 446-2211.