Troubleshooter: Sprinkler problem

October 6, 2009 9:00:00 PM PDT
Bruce and Cory Sprague looked forward to sprucing up their yard. In late April, they turned down three other estimates and chose to get a new sprinkler system from Bart Baxley of Baxley Landscape Company."He was very professional, very timely," Cory recalled.

She signed a contract with Baxley and mailed him a check for half of the cost: $3,900.

The 50 percent deposit check was to be used as a placehold until he had to actually use it for the application - the Town of Cary water permit.

But Cory says five days after she mailed the check, it had been cashed.

"I said, Oh, I will just drop him an email to see how it's going, what's the status," she said.

The Spragues say despite repeated emails and calls, they didn't hear back from Baxley.

"I don't know really what else to think except that he stole our money. I don't like to call anybody a thief but I am basically calling him a thief because I'm not seeing my money. I'm not hearing anything from him," said Cory.

Eyewitness News got in touch with Baxley Landscaping and Bart Baxley said in an email "If she wants her deposit back I will be glad to give her a refund."

A refund is exactly what Cory wanted.

"Had we not contacted channel 11, he would still not even be responding at all," she said.

But despite repeated emails from Baxley confirming he would refund the Spragues their money, he declared bankruptcy.

Even more frustrating was an ad that arrived in the Sprague's mailbox recently. It was from a company called, Baxley's Landscape Group, and it's registered with the state under Baxley's wife's name. The company started just two weeks after Baxley took the Sprague's $3,900 deposit. After repeated requests went unanswered, we tracked Bart Baxley to his Wake County home.

As soon as he saw our camera, he went inside his home leaving the door to his truck wide open and the keys in the ignition. It looked like he was getting ready for a job, as there were several plants and flowers waiting to be planted.

We waited around, but Bart Baxley never came back out, he did send us a statement right after the visit at his home.

It said in part, "The harsh economic environment has had a devastating impact on our business. Our company was forced to file for bankruptcy protection due to these difficulties. Filing bankruptcy was the worst day of my life."

The statement goes on to say he wanted to give the Spragues their refund but was just unable to do so.

He also said he would have talked to us at his home, but he was on the phone.

The Spragues did file a small claims case, and won, but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll get their money, with the bankruptcy filing.

The best advice is never give large deposit up front - 10 percent at the most - and always check out the company.

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