JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The owner of a tree and landscaping company who sparked dozens of consumer complaints for taking money for jobs and then disappearing pleaded guilty Wednesday to organized scheme to defraud, a third-degree felony.
Arthur Ayers was sentenced to eight months in the Duval County Jail, to be followed by three years of probation with the special condition that he repay the 21 victims in Clay, Duval and St. Johns counties.
Ayers became the subject of a Channel 4 investigation and, in turn, a state attorney's office investigation, when Channel 4 found dozens of people who said they handed a total of nearly $18,000 to Ayers' company, K & D Tree and Landscaping. The victims were from across town, from Arlington to Middleburg.
"Our office is appreciative of the work Channel 4 did to secure justice," the state attorney's office said in a statement.
One woman said workers finished about 25 percent of the job, and the man investigators identified as Ayers talked her into writing him a check for almost half of the total price: $1,400. She said he never came back.
Another family said it gave K & D cash to cut down dead trees, but he never showed to do the work. Two days later the trees fell, damaging the family's house and pool.
Channel 4 found a stack of complaints with allegations against K & D Tree and Landscaping. The complaints claim Ayers would start the jobs, get paid before finishing and then disappear, leaving them to hire someone else to pick up the pieces.
Some of Ayers' victims said they're concerned that eight months in jail won't be enough for Ayers.
Ayers was arrested in July.