Some North Texans complain they paid a business named Empire for carpet, but got little more than excuses in return.
"We still are just waiting on new carpet," said Josey Dunagan pointing to the cement floor of her master bedroom. The carpet was the last step in her remodeling project.
She’d been pleased when she had previously ordered carpet from Empire Today, the famed flooring provider that advertises heavily in the Dallas-Fort Worth television market. So when they needed carpet a third time, her husband Googled Empire and found a company called Empire Carpet and Showers.
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Josey spoke with a young saleswoman.
"I asked her, ‘The commercial that you have running right now, buy two rooms get everything else free -- what you’re quoting me is it better, right?’ And she said, ‘Oh no, no, no. What I can quote you is better than that commercial.’"
Dunagan paid the full amount of $1,450 with her debit card. And she says all the while, she believed she was doing business with Empire Today, a well-known company based in Northlake, Illinois. Instead, she’d unwittingly paid a company with a similar name, Empire Carpets and Showers, based in Arlington and owned by John Segovia.
When no one showed up to install the carpet, Segovia told her he was having trouble with his crew. He rescheduled, but failed to show up on the new day.
"So I Googled him and found horrible review after horrible review," said Dunagan. "I called my husband and said, ‘We just got taken.’"
Her story echoes that of Jimmie Durant, a grandmother in Cleburne.
"He was going to send ‘his very best carpet layers.’ That’s what he said,” Durant recounted.
But she said he didn't send his best layers. In fact, she said he sent no carpet layers at all and Durant had paid Segovia $1,400. Segovia refused to give her a refund and Durant had to buy carpet elsewhere.
"I’m still just devastated to think that he would do old people like that," she said.
Records show a long list of folks who want their money back. Segovia currently has nine liens, three bankruptcy filings and a felony theft conviction.
Now Empire Today, armed with cash, clout and the courts has waged war. In a lawsuit filed in July 2014, the company charged trademark infringement saying Segovia is cashing in on the company's good name.
A judge agreed, ordering Segovia to stop using Empire Today's "trade name," "business name" or anything "confusingly similar."
NBC 5 Investigates' Consumer Unit called 52-year old Segovia, who said he’s having health problems and has moved in with his mother in Waco. He claimed he'd stopped using the Empire name and, in an interview more than an hour long, he delivered a series of rambling, at times incoherent, expletive-laced rants. He blamed his employees saying, "My dumb (expletive) installers didn't show up."
When asked about refunds, he repeatedly pointed to his contract which says in the event of a cancellation there will be a 60 percent restocking fee. But customers argue they didn’t cancel the contract, instead his installers didn’t show up. Again Segovia pointed to the contract which says he's not responsible for conditions "beyond Empire's control."
When asked if he considered the failure to have installers a condition beyond his control, Segovia rattled off reasons. He'd been in the hospital. It was a busy remodeling season. He couldn't find installers.
"What am I going to do?” he asked. He defended his business pointing to his decades of experience as a carpet layer and installer.
But Dunagan said she just wishes he’d put all that experience to work and installed the carpet she paid for. She has a word of advice for other customers.
“I would just say if you need carpet or paint, you call yourself and make sure you’re actually calling the company that you want,” Dunagan said.
Dunagan eventually got her money back after her bank investigated and concluded she’d been the victim of fraud. Segovia refused to answer repeated questions about whether he intends to pay back Durant. In the meantime, Mesquite police have issued a warrant for Segovia’s arrest because a customer claims Segovia took payment without providing services.
Experts advise before hiring anyone, do your research. Ask for and check references. If contacted by a business, don’t trust a name or a number. Instead, look up the business’s number and call back. Finally, the Better Business Bureau advises don’t succumb to high pressure sales tactics.