Landscaper takes woman's $13K, doesn't complete job

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GILBERT -- When a Valley woman gave a landscaper almost $13,000 for a big project, she expected a lot more for her money.

The project was for the front yard and the backyard.

And why not? Jody Hom just moved into a brand-new home and she wanted to make it look nice. But after handing over all that money to a landscaper, she says he did very little work.

"He took $13,000 from us and left us with a mess!" Hom said.

Hom said Marc Bray is the man she hired for a big landscaping project back in July.

Bray and his wife run a company called Sun Devil Landscape and Irrigation and Hom says she felt comfortable handing over $13,000 so the company could start her project.

Hom's plans had included a fountain, a barbecue area and a fire pit.

Hom says Bray and Sun Devil Landscape and Irrigation started a small part of the project but never finished and certainly never returned.

Hom says she initially gave Bray three different checks totaling nearly $13,000, but she doesn't have much to show for it.

"The excuses he gave me were numerous," Hom said. "He told us his laborers had disappeared on him. His child was sick."

Tired of the excuses, Hom wrote to 3 On Your Side.

"He totally tricked me," she said. "I was duped completely."

When we went to see Bray at his home, he wouldn't open the door to talk to us and threatened to call Gilbert police. We stuck around, but the police never showed.

However, we did manage to talk to Bray on the phone. He acknowledged he took Hom's $13,000 but did not spend it.

"I'm two months behind on my own rent," he said. "My truck and car are both in repossession status. I didn't touch a dime of that money for personal use."

Bray went on to say that he and Sun Devil Landscape and Irrigation are the victim of a bad economy and claims he's not the bad guy here.

As for Hom, she's not buying Bray's excuses and wishes she had never handed over so much money in advance.

"I feel like I've been violated," Hom said. "I feel like I've lost my ability to trust people."

If there's any good news to report, it's the fact that Sun Devil Landscape and Irrigation is licensed so Hom has a good chance of getting her money back from the Arizona Registrar of Contractors and its recovery fund.

Remember, never hand money over to a contractor in advance. If you do, you're taking a risk that the contractor will take off with your money.