An Anderson senior was allegedly scammed with his own check.
A door-to-door father and son duo selling a free septic system inspection walked away with $2,205 after they claimed they cleaned out a septic tank for 84-year-old Robert Smith of Anderson and his 80-year-old disabled wife Nancy on Feb. 22. Now Bryan/College Station residents, Audie Murphy Cooper and Audie Murphy Cooper II, are facing third-degree felony charges for exploitation of an elderly or disabled individual.
Grimes County Sheriff’s Office Investigator JJ Jones said the lack of services might have been overlooked had the alleged scammers chosen a victim who wasn’t related to a law enforcement officer.
The incident was reported to investigators three days after it occurred.
Jones said after the free offer was accepted, Smith showed the Cooper’s where his two 500-gallon septic tanks were located in the rear of his house. The Cooper’s allegedly told Smith that the tanks would have to be pumped out and gave a $275 quote.
After Smith watched the two men park a white truck near the tanks and was told the truck was equipped with a square tank in its bed, he told investigators he returned to his home while the subjects reportedly worked. In less than two hours, the Cooper’s handed Smith an invoice in the amount of $2,205 and claimed they also had to unstop the drainpipe.
Smith paid the two men with a $2,205 check written out to Buggy Septic Service for services Jones said were never rendered. About an hour later, the Cooper’s returned to the residence and claimed they needed another check made payable to Audie Cooper since the initial check could not be cashed.
“We had certified people go look at the septic system and the services they claimed to have been providing had not been done,” Jones said.
The investigator also contacted up to 10 certified technicians who informed him Smith had also been “grossly overcharged.”
A probable cause statement shows that removal of the ‘T’ to the leech field pipe, which was reportedly done by the Cooper’s, would actually allow solid waste to enter and clog the leech field pipe.
There are other possible victims in Robertson County and Moody. More victims are predicted, Jones said, since one of the men has a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality permit for sludge transport to a wastewater facility in Hearne. However, the facility has no record of transports by either man since Jan. 1.
Jones said, “I know there have been other attempts near Iola. If we have other victims out there, they may not realize they have been scammed.”
Citizens should be aware that door-to-door offers for septic system inspections are highly unusual. Also, costs for sludge removal is typically about .35 to .40 per gallon, Jones said.
“And if they offered to clean out a leech pipe with a Roto-Rooter, that’s impossible,” Jones said.
March 14, the Smith’s paid A-Plus Septic Service $380 to pump 1,000 gallons of waste from the septic tanks and $20 to repair the ‘T’ to the leech field pipe.
Cooper’s 22-year-old son was arrested at his residence on March 28. Jones said a relative of the 45-year-old father was notified of a warrant for Cooper’s arrest on April 10. Cooper turned himself in on April 19.
Each man was released on a $10,000 bond, set by Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Joe Imhoff.
Jones said other Grimes County residents who were offered the same free septic system inspection by the Cooper’s turned the men away.
Anyone who has been offered a free septic system, whether money was paid for related services presented or not, is asked to contact the Grimes County Sheriff’s Office at 936-873-2151.