Anne Steffan wanted to blow the whistle on Rodd Hansen, an unlicensed plumber she hired for her kitchen repair. She was frustrated by the delays in the project, especially after she had paid about $17,000 in advance. After Steffan contacted Whistleblower, I found out that she wasn’t the first person to be fooled by Hansen’s claim that he was a licensed plumber. In my story for Sunday’s paper, I mentioned a 74-year-old woman who had previously contacted the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry to file a complaint against Hansen.
It was Marilyn Sackariason’s complaint that began an investigation into Hansen which ended in an almost $10,000 fine from the state. After her initial contact with the labor department in Nov. 2007, she said she never heard back and didn’t know about the fine. It wasn’t until she read her Sunday paper that she learned what had happened to Hansen.
“I learned a really hard lesson,” she said. “I allowed myself to get conned.”
Sackariason, like Steffan, acknowledged that she didn’t look up Hansen’s plumber’s license when she hired him to find out what was causing moisture under her kitchen floor. She paid him $3,135 up front and he got to work. Over a few days, Hansen used a jack hammer to drill into her floor, he dismantled her sink and toilet in a bathroom and he cut holes through her walls. When Sackariason’s insurance adjuster and some other contractors doing work in her townhome saw the damage and told her it was unnecessary, she fired Hansen. Almost three years later, she still hasn’t recovered the money she paid him or the money she had to pay out of her pocket to fix the damage. A contractor she hired later conducted a simple pressure test to determine the source of the moisture.
Charlie Durenberger, the head of the labor department’s contractor enforcement unit, said Sackariason’s case was one of the worst he’s seen.
“It was one of our more egregious cases in that this guy, in addition to not being licensed and bonded, misrepresented his licensing status to this consumer,” he said. “And rather than doing work to repair her plumbing system, he actually caused damage to her home.”
Sackariason said she’s glad the state acted on her complaint. Like Steffan, she now uses the labor department’s license look-up to make sure her contractors have a license.