I, and several others, were recently scammed out of a lot of money by a rogue contract employee for Milligan Scapes. I will post the owner, Gary Milligan’s, handling of the situation, which I feel was unacceptable. Though my bias is obvious, I will keep my experience as factual and objective as possible so that the readers can decide for themselves if they wish to work with Milligan Scapes.
- Requested consultation and quote via the Milligan Scapes website.
- The contract employee, Gary Mares, responds to the request, comes up with design and quote, and collects down payment.
- Mares keeps delaying schedule start.
- After getting suspicious and calling the owner, Gary Milligan, I learn that Mares never submitted the paperwork or down payment for the contract. i.e. Mares has taken the money for himself without ever planning to do the project
- Milligan agrees to perform the work in the contract for the remaining amount due and signs an updated contract stating so. [continued below]....
..... (i.e. he agrees to eat the cost of the down payment) A few weeks later, Milligan reneges on this contract, saying he’ll only do the work for the full amount of the original contract. (i.e. he tells me that I would have to eat the cost of the down payment)
Long version (scroll down for a summary of our arguments):
- In November 2013 I requested a quote for landscaping services via the Milligan Scapes website.
- My contact information was passed on to Gary Mares, a contract employee (1099 contractor) for Milligan Scapes, who scheduled a landscape consultation.
- Mr. Mares looks at the yard, takes measurements, comes up with a beautiful design, and quotes $16,000 for the job. This includes patio extension, retaining wall construction, and yard leveling, in addition to irrigation, planting and other services.
- I’ll note that at this point, I did not know Gary Mares’ last name. I just knew him as “Gary”—same first name as the owner. This certainly lent itself to confusion and made it easier to be conned. He also wore Milligan Scapes polos, carried the paperwork, and drove a company vehicle.
- After finding Mr. Mares’ bid to be competitive, I accept it with an agreement to pay half ($8000 down), with the other half to be paid upon completion of the project.
- Gary Mares requests the $8000 down payment to be made out to him personally. It’s around this time I learn his last name. I confess the agreement to make the check out to him was very stupid on my part, and not one I’ll repeat. I will note that, even though he was only a contract employee of Milligan Scapes, he was represented himself as a co-owner, with the various Milligan Scapes accoutrements and landscape design skills to help make this story credible. He also presents official Milligan Scapes paperwork regarding the contract, warranties, etc. (see photos for original contract)
- I’ll note that after this, I misremembered Gary Mares’ last name. I had him down in my contacts as Gary Meles (my other stupid error)
- At the end of January, Gary Mares texts me stating he’ll be scheduling my project in a couple of weeks. No red flags yet.
- In early-February, I call Mares to find out when I can expect the project to be scheduled. He says due to shortage of workers it’ll have to be late February and I’m fourth in line. At this point I’m still within the time period for scheduling noted in the paperwork.
- In early March I ask where I am in line. He calls a couple of days later and says I’m still fourth in line and that they had to go back and finish a job in Los Alamos from November that got delayed by weather. Now there are red flags.
- On 3/11/14 I find Mares’ actual last name in my paperwork and do an online search for him. I find two mugshots and several cases involving fraud committed by Gary Mares.
- I immediately call Gary Milligan about it and learn that Mares never provided him the down payment or paperwork for my contract, and this was the first he was hearing about it. Milligan insists he’s not responsible for the down payment since the check was made out to Gary Mares and not Milligan Scapes, but sets up an appointment to look at the contract and work something out. I decide to hold off on arguing responsibility until we meet.
- On 3/13/14 Milligan comes to the house to look at the contract and design. During the visit he notes that “[Mares] did use Milligan Scapes pricing.” To my delight he agrees to perform the work for just the remaining $8000 from the remaining contract and schedules the work to begin on April 14. We also agree that I would pay $4000 down when the work starts. (see photos of updated contract)
- On 4/2/14 Gary Milligan calls to tell me that the project was underquoted (I thought he said Mares used Milligan Scapes pricing?) and that he would need the full $16000 originally quoted to perform the work. I told him this was unacceptable and reminded him that he signed a contract stating that he would do the work for $8000. He states that as long as he hasn’t received a down payment, he can break the contract any time. He again notes that since my check went to Gary Mares instead of Milligan Scapes, that doesn’t count as any sort of payment. I make the argument that, since Gary Mares was receiving payment as an agent of Milligan Scapes, it was incumbent upon Milligan Scapes, not me, to take responsibility for that payment and pursue restitution from Mr. Mares. Milligan vehemently disagrees. I suggest a couple of compromises—revising the design to something less expensive and performing the project for $12000—both of which Milligan rejects. I ask why he agreed to do the work for $8000 on 3/13/14. Milligan states that he wasn’t in the right state of mind having just learned about Gary Mares’s antics. We never came to an agreement, and the conversation did not end well.
Our arguments in a nutshell:
Gary Milligan: “The check you wrote for the down payment was made out to Gary Mares, a contractor for Milligan Scapes, not Milligan Scapes itself, and therefore I am not responsible for it. Also, I can break the contract I signed as long as I haven’t received any payments on it yet.”
Me: “Since Gary Mares was employed by as an agent for Milligan Scapes, Milligan Scapes bears responsibility for meeting the agreement of the contract, whether the check was made out to Mares or Milligan Scapes (I’ll note that every business owner, the two lawyers, and police officer I filed a report with has stated the same thing). Also, you totally signed the contract stating you would complete the project for $8000.”
Milligan had told us that he’d hired a service to do a background check on Gary Mares and they found nothing. During our last conversation, we expressed surprise that nothing was found, considering that simple internet searches showed his mugshots, that he’d been in prison and on probation, and that he’d been to court numerous times for fraud. Gary Milligan continued to insist that the background check found nothing, and that he “wasn’t legally required” to perform a background check anyway.
Take a look at the events and the arguments especially and make your own decision about who is right and who is wrong in this scenario. My opinion is that, at best, Gary Milligan is severely lacking the integrity and ethics that a business owner should possess and at worst, is dodging his legal obligations as a business owner. You, of course, are free to disagree.
According to Mr. Milligan, several people were affected by Mr. Mares’ scam. If you feel, as I do, that Mr. Milligan has failed to meet his responsibilities as a business owner in this situation, I strongly recommend that, at a minimum, you file a complaint with the Consumer Protection Division of the New Mexico Attorney General’s office at http://www.nmag.gov/consumer/file-a-complaint