JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A man accused of taking money for multiple tree-trimming jobs that were not completed "did these people wrong and needs to pay," his wife said Wednesday.
Arthur Ayers was arrested Tuesday on a violation of probation charge in an unrelated case.
He pleaded not guilty to the charge during a first appearance hearing Wednesday morning. Ayers, 37, was ordered held on $15,000 bond at the Duval County Jail and his arraignment hearing was set for March 14.
A News4Jax investigation in 2010 led to Arthur Ayers being convicted of multiple counts of fraud in Duval County and sentenced to six months in jail.
Arthur Ayers has not been charged in connection with the recent allegations.
On Tuesday, a woman who lives on Jacksonville's Westside told News4Jax that she paid Arthur Ayers this weekend for services that were not completed.
Another customer then came forward, saying she gave Arthur Ayers more than $400 for work he didn't finish.
The new allegations come less than a year after two different customers told News4Jax that Arthur Ayers took their money without finishing the work.
Last Saturday, Elva Fulcher said, she was in her front yard when Arthur Ayers drove up and offered to trim the tree in front of her house.
"I said, 'Yes, I would like to have three limbs taken off,'" Fulcher told News4Jax on Tuesday. "He took those off then he wanted more."
According to Fulcher, Arthur Ayers offered to take off more limbs, but stated he needed a deposit.
"I said, 'How much?' And he said, '$200.' Then he said, 'I got more limbs that need to come off.' I asked how much it would cost me. He said, '$380.' I said, 'OK,'" she said.
She said Arthur Ayers started climbing the tree, saying he found dead limbs that he claimed would eventually fall on her house. Fulcher said he then told her that he needed to rent a bucket lift from Home Depot to do the job.
"He said, 'It's going to cost $325,'" Fulcher said.
Fulcher said she gave Arthur Ayers the deposit that he asked for then left to go to Home Depot with his wife and two other family members who were helping him.
An hour later, she said, Arthurs Ayers' wife came back.
"And she said they would not let him use the credit card -- he needs more money. I asked how much and she said, 'Another $100,'" Fulcher said.
Fulcher said she gave his wife the money, still believing it was a legitimate operation.
The copy of the receipt Fulcher received shows that she paid the couple more than $500. But she said no one ever returned to render services.
"My daughter kept calling and saying, 'Mother, I told you not to do that. I told you to let me always handle your business.' I said, 'He looked like an honest man,'" Fulcher said.
News4Jax told Fulcher and her family that Arthur Ayers had been under previous investigation for similar allegations.
"Well that cemented all our fears because, obviously, it's not the first time he's done it. So he knows what he's doing," said Jacqueline Berrios, Fulcher's relative. "I guess you can call him a career scammer."
When Fulcher called the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office to file a report, police told her it was a civil matter that has to handled in claims court.
Wife disputes accusations of being Ayers' accomplice
After hearing Fulcher's story, Sarah Ayers called News4Jax on Wednesday to tell her side of the story, saying she was never an accomplice in her husband's alleged scam.
"You just don't do this. It's b*******," Sarah Ayers said.
Sarah Ayers said she's very upset, explaining that she drove her husband to homes where he was hired to do tree-trimming work -- but that's it.
She said she wasn't aware of a possible scam until customers started calling her phone.
"I had no idea, no clue that he was going to take her money and do this," Sarah Ayers said. "I have been on the phone with Ms. Fulcher. She and I have had contact. I told her I would help her in any way possible."
Sarah Ayers said her husband doesn't have a driver's license, so she drove him to different neighborhoods where he could trim trees to earn a living.
"I've seen him do tree work," she said.
She also claimed that she had no idea he was taking money without rendering full services, like customers have claimed.
Sarah Ayers said she also had no idea that Arthur Ayers was sentenced in 2011 to six months in Duval County Jail as a result of a News4Jax investigation. The two met in 2013.
Arthur Ayers is now being held at the county jail on charged in an unrelated case.
"I'm glad he's sitting in jail. He deserves to sit in jail," Sarah Ayers said. "He did these people wrong and he needs to pay. He needs to give them back their money."
Sarah Ayers said she filed for divorce from her husband Thursday morning.
Another customer, Ayers' former boss come forward
In addition to Sarah Ayers, another customer and Arthur Ayers' former boss reached out to News4Jax after hearing Fulcher's story.
A woman told News4Jax on Wednesday that she recognized Arthur Ayers' face on the news, but knew him as "Anthony," not Arthur.
The customer, who did not want to be identified because she said she was embarrassed, said Arthur Ayers also approached her offering to trim her trees, and she paid him more than $400 for work he didn't finish.
“I didn’t tell my family -- not even my husband," the woman said.
Last month, she said, she paid Arthur Ayers $100 in cash to trim her trees and he completed the job. But when she gave him a $450 check to lay concrete, she said he took the money and never finished the job.
“Then when I went to the bank, it wasn’t even his name when he cashed. It was not his name on my canceled check," she said.
Both the check and the receipt had the name, "Anthony Ayers," which News4Jax was told is actually the name of Arthur Ayers' brother.
The woman said she then called police for help.
“The police told me that I had given him a check voluntarily and that, in the state of Florida, there is no time limit for him to come back and finish his job," she said.
News4Jax also spoke to Arthur Ayers’ former boss, who owns a construction company. He wished to not be identified to protect his company's reputation.
He said he happens to know one of Arthur Ayers’ dissatisfied customers, and told him to give her back the money.
"He said he’d give her a cashier check or cash to her," his former boss said.
But many weeks have gone by, and the woman said she has not not received one penny from Arthur Ayers.
“I know I’m not getting my money back but he needs to be stopped," the woman said.
Police told that customer the same thing they told Fulcher -- she would have to go after Arthur Ayers in claims court.