Homeowners caught in legal battle between solar company and supplier

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SUN LAKES, Ariz. - Alfreda Wilson and Louis Simmons recently refinanced their Sun Lakes home.

With the money they saved, they decided to invest in solar panels.

“We're gonna take this little extra money and kinda cut our bills in the long run,” she said.

They hired a Valley company called Arizona Solar Water and HVAC to do the install.

A man named Ray Baxter owns the company, and several others including Arizona Power Save.

You may remember Baxter.

He didn't want to speak with us two years ago at his Mesa office even though he'd invited us there for an interview.

We wanted to ask Baxter about a complaint from another homeowner in Sun City.

“They came with a crew with no knowledge of what they were doing,” Luther Abrahamson said.

Wilson said she's having trouble with Baxter now too.

“It's not right!” she said.

Last year, Wilson and her husband paid Baxter's company more than $16,000 to install solar panels.

But, according to court documents filed earlier this year, "Arizona Power Save has refused to pay" its supplier, Consolidated Electrical Distributors.

So, C.E.D. filed a lawsuit and placed liens on the homes of several of Baxter's customers.

“It’s not our fault that he didn't pay for his materials,” Wilson said.

“It’s a situation that should never have happened,” said attorney Mike Fiflis.

Some homeowners have hired Fiflis to fight the lawsuit.

Fiflis argues clients had no idea that buried in their contract was another contract which “allows C.E.D. to file a mechanics lien against the project if it is not timely paid.”

“People were, at least in my opinion, clearly duped into doing this,” Fiflis said.

3 On Your Side tried again to talk with Baxter but he's a hard man to find.

We went back to the address where we found him the first time but we were told he'd been gone for more than a year.

At another one of Baxter's business addresses -- this one in Tempe -- all we found were locked doors and word from the landlord that Baxter had broken his lease and moved out months ago.

So, where does that leave Wilson, Simmons and other homeowners who now have liens against their properties.

“It's gonna take all our savings, it's gonna wipe us out,” she said.

They paid their bills, so 3 On Your Side just wanted to ask Baxter if he plans on paying his.

As 3 On Your Side has been working to resolve these cases, the legal battle has also been playing out in court.

An agreement has been reached between C.E.D. and Arizona Power Save. According to the courts, Baxter must repay C.E.D. $50,000 by May 18.

Just before our report aired on May 17, Baxter finally responded to our e-mails:

"Agreement reached, payments made, liens released! APS"

3 On Your Side has been unable to confirm this, but will continue to monitor this story.

UPDATE: 3 On Your Side has confirmed Ray Baxter has not paid C.E.D. the full amount of the agreement and therefore, all liens have not been released. Baxter requested more time to pay C.E.D. He now has until June 1 at 5pm.
May 19, 2011