FOX 8 Defenders 2017 Year in Review

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - From the North Shore to the South Shore, and from the River Parishes to the Bayou region, the FOX 8 Defenders answered hundreds of consumer concerns in 2017. Here's a look back at some of our consumer successes and educational lessons in 2017.

The FOX 8 Defenders reported in February, you could be driving a dangerous car and not even know it.  We put the free, myCarfax app to the test in area parking lots, spotting serious problems with several vehicles that had recalls that have never been fixed.

"All you need is the license plate and the state," Larry Gamache with Carfax said.  We plugged the information into the app and discovered a mini van that had an open recall.  After talking to the driver, we learned she had been in an accident and her airbag did not deploy.  "Your airbag may not have deployed because it's under a manufacturer recall," Gamache said.

The driver wasn't aware she had an open recall, and explained that she's transporting her children in the vehicle every day.  Besides learning recall details in seconds, the app explains there's usually a free fix from the manufacturer.

In Terrebonne Parish, some homeowners told us a loud, intense noise was waking them up twice a week.  "It's a pretty loud, violent shaking.  The windows and the walls of the house.. and it wakes the whole house up," Houma homeowner Mike Thompson said.

Residents say the noise came from an adjacent apartment complex.  "Before the sun comes up, you're gonna hear dumpsters being cleaned out and slammed," explained homeowner David Davis.

Hoping to get more shut-eye before the sun comes up, they enlisted the FOX 8 Defenders for help.  After speaking with the complex owner and a representative with the waste and debris company, we were told they'd work to adjust pickup routes to accommodate nearby homeowners.  Two weeks after we got involved, neighbors saw progress.  One neighbor emailed us, "not once last week was there the sound of smashing dumpsters happening before dawn/7 a.m.  This is what I was trying to do for over a year."

MARCH 2017
A Gretna couple bought a used vehicle and a week later, made a disturbing discovery.  "It's soaking wet back there," Brandon Coleman said.

Covering the back carpet of his SUV, were patches of black, white and fuzzy mold.  Under the carpet, we found rusty seat rails. "My kids, they sit in the back. I mean what am I supposed to do?" Coleman asked.

When he couldn't get more than a free vehicle detail from the Metairie dealership they used, he reached out to the FOX 8 Defenders for help.  "I would never ever put kids in this car, never ever put kids in this car and breathe that," Emile Virgadamo said.

Virgadamo, an auto repair shop owner, told us the water damage wasn't normal, even for a used vehicle.  So then we made calls to the dealer, and a customer service manager did offer up a few options, which included taking the car back and refunding the family the $7,000 they paid for it.   

JUNE 2017 
A New Orleans homeowner witnessed a crime in his neighborhood, and he had the video to prove it.  "I see a U-haul truck, a little GMC, sitting here, unloading their junk, trash, construction material with nail boards," Robert Rogers explained.

A closer look revealed a pile of old boards with nails sticking out of them.  On his recording, Rogers could be heard yelling at the men, "you guys can't dump here!"

Even worse, the people illegally dumped the trash in the street.  What disturbed Rogers more was the NOPD's response to the situation.  Throughout the day, he says three different officers responded.  "He (a police officer) said, 'hey, this is a victim-less crime. It's on somebody else's property.' I said, it's not a victim-less crime. It's in the street. That's New Orleans," explained Rogers.

Remember, the homeowner had video of the crime in the act, which included capturing the rental truck license plate.  After our request for answers, the police admitted a miscommunication between responding officers resulted in a misunderstanding about proper procedure.

The FOX 8 Defenders were able to locate the man who rented the truck for his construction crew.  He promised he'd have his workers clean up the trash,  and the next day some of it had been cleared. 

Residents in a Covington subdivision were living without a basic utility many of us take for granted. "They (fire hydrants) were buried under landscape, the sod was all the way up to the hose attachments," Andrew Melton said.

Six fire hydrants in the development were buried for more than two years.  Homeowners claimed they never could get answers from Tammany Utilities.

"'We'll call you. We'll let you know. We're gonna send somebody out in two weeks, but nothing,'" Melton explained were some of the responses he received.

He took his growing concerns over a lack of fire protection to the FOX 8 Defenders, and we worked to get the problem solved. St. Tammany Fire District 13 confirmed, the hydrants were deemed unusable, a problem the district says it reported to the utility twice.

The FOX 8 Defenders made one call to St. Tammany Parish government, and less than 24 hours later, neighbors saw action. "After we sent out a crew to dig those fire hydrants up, we instituted an emergency task order so that we can have someone go out and insert a pipe, raising those fire hydrants," Ronnie Simpson, Dir. of Public Information for St. Tammany Parish said.

It was a health and safety hazard, St. Tammany Parish called unacceptable. If the hydrants are needed, firefighters now have appropriate access.

In November, we showed you a Jefferson Parish business that found itself in the middle of a real life cyber threat.  "I felt like my computer and my office had been invaded," Mark Brown a partner of a Metairie marketing firm said.

Someone else pretending to be Brown, through hacking his email, directed his marketing firm's book-keeper to pay what was described as an outstanding invoice for more than $26,000.  "He was having a dialogue with her, telling her as if it were me, telling her, 'write this check, or get this done, or go to the bank and do an ACH and transmit those funds,'" Brown explained.

Keep in mind, the book-keeper thought the back and forth emails that stressed getting the invoice paid were with her boss. Instead, it was some stranger who wanted her to do an electronic transfer of money from their firm's bank account to another bank account.

"They may even act as a boss and indicate that if you don't do it immediately, that you could lost your job.  We've heard of cases like that," Cynthia Albert with the Better Business Bureau said.

The FBI calls the cyber crime a business email compromise, a fast-growing trend estimated to exceed over a billion dollar loss in the U.S. alone.  Fortunately the JP business didn't fall victim, but its employees hope others take their experience seriously.

The FOX 8 Defenders staffed with volunteers from the National Council of Jewish Women also field consumer complaints at 1-877-670-6397 or you can fill out an online complaint form.

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