Action 9

‘Sent a crook to our house’: Homeowner claims Home Depot referred contractor with criminal history

APOPKA, Fla. — A central Florida couple that trusted The Home Depot to help them with a backyard project claims the company referred a known criminal to do the work. They then said that criminal took thousands of dollars from them and never did any of the work.

Latoya and Marcellus Wells were looking to screen in the back porch of their Apopka home. They love shopping at The Home Depot and consider it like a second home since they are there so often. Last year, employees at their nearby store introduced them to Pro Referral, Powered by The Home Depot. It’s a program that’s designed to connect “quality pros with homeowners” to make home improvements.

Latoya Wells told Action 9 consumer investigator Jeff Deal, “Then we got an email from Home Depot home pros that we’ve been matched with five Home Depot Pros.”

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One of the “Pros” matched was Decalo Hancock, who runs a company called YC Unlimited Inc. The referral had Hancock’s photo, business name, contact information and showed his specialty as pavers.

But the Wells’ family said Hancock convinced them he could do the entire job. The contract they signed with YC Unlimited included concrete, screening, pergola and even electrical work. Decalo Hancock was listed as the contractor for the job. The problem is Action 9 couldn’t find a contractor’s license for Hancock during a search of state records.

Action 9 also found Hancock has a criminal history that includes two arrests for grand theft. In one case from 2015, he pleaded no contest, served probation and adjudication was withheld. In a prior case from 2010, he took part in a pre-trial diversion program and eventually the charge was dismissed.

Right now, Hancock is awaiting trial on charges of aggravated battery with a firearm and shooting into an occupied vehicle. Witnesses told Apopka police he fired 8 or 9 times and police records show the victim was struck by at least three bullets during a parking dispute in 2021.

Wells said, “Like this guy knows where we live. You know, he’s been in our house, in our private space.”

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To make matters worse Latoya Wells showed Action 9 paperwork indicating they paid him $8,000 dollars up front, but said he never returned to do any of the work.

“They sent a crook to our house. They sent someone who is not licensed,” said Wells.

The Home Depot has had issues with contractors before. In a 2020 settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, it agreed to pay a $20million penalty for failing to follow rules for renovations involving lead paint. The EPA found in hundreds of cases, The Home Depot sent uncertified firms to perform renovations that required them to have certification.

In the Wells case, Pro Referral initially denied their claim for a list of reasons, including that it “does not resolve financial disputes.” But after Action 9 reached out to The Home Depot, it agreed to reimburse them the entire $8,000. An email from the company stated, “Taking care of our customers is one of our top priorities, and we don’t want this to happen to anyone.”

When Action 9 reached Decalo Hancock by phone to get his side of the story he didn’t answer any questions and hung up.

While the Wells family is happy to get their money back, they’re now encouraging others to do their own research before hiring anyone.

“A lot of people will trust that Home Depot is going to send reputable people, people who aren’t criminals to their home,” Wells said.

The Home Depot also sent this additional information in response to an Action 9 inquiry into the incident:

As with any of our service providers, we do rigorous, mandatory background checks on the Pro contractors before they can join our Pro Referral’s Pro network. The Pros are required to carry insurance and a license if the state requires it. We periodically monitor them once they are in our database. The contractors are not directly hired by Home Depot nor do we receive any money from them or the customer.

The Pro contractor in question passed our background check in April 2022; he was rechecked 6 months later and passed again. However, he failed a year later, so we terminated our relationship with him, and he was removed from our database. We had no knowledge of his criminal history.

If a customer informs us that there was a problem with a Pro, we will assist to get it resolved, if the Pro is still in our network. In this case, the customer filed a claim after the Pro was no longer part of our network.

Again, when a Pro contacts a customer, the contractor is acting on their sole behalf and is not a representative of Pro Referral or The Home Depot. Here’s more information on how the Pro Referral program works:

Jeff Deal

Jeff Deal,

I joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in 2006.

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