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Allegheny

State charges father-and-son plumbers with fraud

Joe Napsha
| Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018, 11:48 p.m.

The state is seeking a preliminary injunction against a father and son who operate two plumbing businesses in Western Pennsylvania, after more than 20 consumers complained that the plumbers bilked customers out of thousands of dollars in unneeded replacement of sewer pipes.

The state Attorney General Bureau of Consumer Protection said Thursday it filed the lawsuit in Erie County Court against Howard Stahl, of Pearl Plumbing Inc., and his son, Nolan Stahl, who has Stahl Brothers Plumbing Inc.

Both men, whose businesses are based in Grove City, also operate Roto Rooter franchises.

Neither Howard nor Nolan Stahl are affiliated with the Stahl Plumbing businesses in Irwin, Monroeville, McKees Rocks and Pittsburgh.

The Consumer Protection Bureau is seeking a preliminary injunction against the defendants to bar them from defrauding residents by recommending, contracting for, or accepting payment for plumbing repairs, the Attorney General’s Office said.

Nolan Stahl, of Erie County, formerly worked for his father, Howard Stahl, of Allegheny County, as a service technician and supervisor.

Nolan Stahl does business as “Rooter Man” in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Lawrence, Washington, Erie, Crawford, and Mercer counties, the Attorney General’s Office said.

An investigation revealed that while Nolan Stahl worked for his father’s business, Howard Stahl was well aware of consumers’ complaints against his son and other service technicians who were recommending unnecessary repairs.

But Howard Stahl continued to demand payment from defrauded consumers and rejected timely efforts to cancel contracts.

The complaint alleges Nolan Stahl knowingly recommended the unnecessary replacement of sewer pipes and made misrepresentations, omissions, and misleading statements to consumers in recommending the replacements. Furthermore, the complaint alleges that Nolan Stahl defrauded some consumers with pre-recorded video footage of defective sewer pipes, which he claimed was live video footage of the consumers’ pipes.

The Bureau of Consumer Protection is not suing Roto Rooter. That company’s corporate office has cooperated with the investigation, the state said.

Two Erie county consumers say Nolan Stahl told them their interior sewer pipes were collapsing and needed to be replaced, but a second opinion told them otherwise:

One customer alleged that Nolan Stahl was to unclog a pipe when he said pipes under the house needed to be replaced at a cost of $8,650. Some existing pipes in the basement were broken in the process of breaking the basement floor. Nolan Stahl said an extra $6,400 was needed to replace a pipe leading from the house to the street.

It cost the homeowner an extra $4,500 to repair the damage from the unnecessary work.

Any Pennsylvania consumers who believes they have been scammed by Howard Stahl, Nolan Stahl, Pearl Plumbing or Stahl Brothers Plumbing should contact the Bureau of Consumer Protection at 800-441-2555 or scams@attorneygeneral.gov.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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