The Investigators: Sounding the alarm - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

The Investigators: Sounding the alarm

By Andy Wise - bio | email

MEMPHIS (WMC TV) - A Mid-South home security company continues to conduct business despite losing its corporate status for nearly 20 months and allowing its alarm contractor's license to expire.

A memo dated June 4, 2008 from the Tennessee Department of Revenue to then-Tennessee Secretary of State Riley Darnell certified that Fort Knox Security, LLC, 1717 Bartlett Rd, failed to pay or properly file its state franchise or excise tax returns.

According to department of state spokesperson Blake Fontenay, the state of Tennessee revoked Fort Knox Security's corporate status six days later.

State records and official sources also indicated Fort Knox Security, owned by Henry H. "Hank" Weaver, has a "delinquent" alarm contractor's license that expired June 2009. Just last week, on March 4, Tennessee Alarm Contractors Board Assistant General Counsel Andrew H. Simpson wrote a "cease & desist" letter to Weaver, instructing him to immediately stop operating as an alarm systems contractor. The letter acknowledged that Weaver submitted an application for license renewal Aug. 21, 2009, nearly two months after it expired. 

Although the Action News 5 Investigators obtained a copy of the letter, Weaver's attorney Edward Bearman said the letter was not sent to either him or his client.

On Sept. 30, 2009, the board deemed the renewal application "incomplete...due to the lack of a Designated Qualifying Agent."

Yet Weaver and Fort Knox Security continue to either draft fees from customers' accounts or bill them for the service.

"The only way an alarm systems contractor would be able to bill without running afoul of state regulations would be if the company that maintained an expired alarm license continued to bill customers...by and through a licensed monitoring company," said Christopher Garrett, spokesperson for the Tennessee Alarm Contractors Board. "Otherwise, the cease-and-desist order...would apply to all aspects of the company's business operations."

Weaver and Fort Knox Security have directly billed customers Jeff Larico of Collierville, TN, and "Bruce" of Downtown Memphis (he asked not to identify his last name) since 2006 and 2003, respectively. Recently, both customers said they've had trouble with the security company. 

Billing statements showed Larico has incurred charges he said he can't get Weaver or his employees to explain. Bruce said his alarm unit has malfunctioned, but he can't get Fort Knox Security to address the problem.

"The money's pulled out of my checking account monthly, and then all I'm doing is saying, 'Would you have a manager return my phone call?'" said Bruce. "I would just like to speak to somebody. There is no service. Nothing."

"(Fort Knox Security) doesn't even have a license?" asked Larico. "I mean, that's insane! Why are they still in business?"

The Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South has recorded 55 complaints against Fort Knox Security, all before the March 4 cease-and-desist order.  According to BBB reports, Weaver failed to respond to 43 of the complaints (please read the BBB report on Fort Knox Security here:  http://www.bbb.org/us/Find-Business-Reviews/).

Weaver also owns and operates a lawn care company, Turfco, that has its own history with the BBB (please read this Action News 5 Stand Your Ground story on Weaver & Turfco from 2008:  http://www.wmctv.com/Global/story.asp?S=8715104).

Randy Hutchinson, President of the BBB of the Mid-South, condemned Weaver's business practices.

"People have tried to cancel the service, and he continues to bill them, and when they don't pay, he threatens them with collections," said Hutchinson. 

When the Action News 5 Investigators asked Hutchinson if Weaver's operations should be shut down, he answered, "That is a decision ultimately for the state, but our advice to consumers is 'look elsewhere.'"

The Action News 5 Investigators alerted Weaver and Bearman to our investigation by phone and e-mail Jan. 12.  

17 days later -- Jan. 29 -- state records revealed Weaver and Ft. Knox Security filed for reinstatement and received clearance from the state revenue department to reactivate its corporate status. Both Fontenay and state filing records confirmed Fort Knox Security filed its tardy 2007 and 2008 annual reports that day.

But Garrett said that doesn't make a difference as long as the security company's alarm contractor's license has expired.

Both Weaver and Bearman declined on-camera interviews for this story.  Bearman released the following statement:

"Ft. Knox met with Mr. Wise and provided the information about the billing of two customers. Mr. Wise acknowledges that billing was proper and there was no wrong-doing whatsoever."

That statement is inaccurate.  Action News 5's Andy Wise did meet with Weaver and Bearman at the lawyer's office March 2.  Bearman requested the meeting be off-the-record, which means no information gleaned from the meeting can be either published or broadcast.  

That meeting did nothing to alleviate concerns raised on-the-record -- both by human sources and by documented sources -- about the business practices of Fort Knox Security.

Customers who have concerns about Fort Knox Security should report those concerns to the Tennessee Alarm Contractors Board: 

Alarm Systems Contractors Board

500 James Robertson Pkwy

Nashville, TN 37243-1168

615-741-9771

Fax: 615-532-2965

Alarm.Systems.Contractors@TN.Gov

http://tn.gov/commerce/boards/asc/index.shtml 

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