Ore. hearing aid salesman sought for theft in King County

SEATTLE -- A man selling hearing aids to senior citizens is now wanted by local police.

Charges have been filed against Roy James Taber with the Family Hearing Center in Hillsboro, Oregon.

Norma Anderson, 85, says she was referred to Taber by a friend who responded to Taber's sales pitch at a Portland-area assisted living facility. Anderson liked the fact that Taber would come right to her home, and give her a discount. She says she was told the hearing aids were brand new models also sold at Costco, but for $1,000 less.

"He had his white coat on, and he came in and said, 'I have to give you a hearing test,'" she said.

But Anderson says Taber simply asked her a few softly-spoken questions, standing about 5 feet away.

"He said, 'Can you hear me?' And he said certain words and I said, ' No,'" said Anderson.

Anderson says with that, Taber confirmed she needed hearing aids and sold her two devices for $1,399 down and $1,399 upon delivery.

"And he gave us a contract that said I could try them for 90 days. (The contract said,) 'If you're not happy, we'll give you your money back,"' she said.

But Anderson didn't need 90 days.

"I never could hear anything with them!" she said.

Anderson says when she called her friend in Portland, she learned that friend at the assisted living facility had encountered similar problems. The assisted living facility confirmed they have instructed Taber to stay away.

Anderson and her daughter, Dolly Emerson, say they asked Taber to refund Anderson's money but Taber told them to give it a week. Continued complaints eventually resulted in an offer to refund Anderson with installments of $500. Anderson says she received one payment, but Taber was anxious to for her to return the hearing aids. Sensing a bigger problem, Emerson called Bellevue police.

BPD Corporal Rob Spingler says his investigation determined the hearing aids sold as new, high-quality devices made by Rexton were actually used hearing aids made by a different manufacturer at least a decade ago. Spingler even tracked down the refurbishing business that re-cased the old hearing aids and changed the serial numbers.

"The person that actually re-cased these says that if he were to sell them, he would have sold them for about $1,000," Spingler said.

Meantime, state Health investigators discovered Taber is not even licensed to dispense hearing aids in Washington and earlier this month notified Taber of their intent to file charges, including an order to cease and desist. A health department spokesperson told the Problem Solvers Taber has never held credentials to practice as a hearing instrument fitter/dispenser or audiologist in the state of Washington, and in fact was issued credentials as a trainee in 1984.

Based on the Bellevue police investigation, the King County prosecutor filed criminal charges in King County Superior Court.

"He's been charged with two counts of theft two (second-degree theft), and right now there's actually a warrant out for his arrest." said Spingler.

The King County Prosecutor's Office says Taber failed to appear for arraignment in August, which prompted the bench warrant.

I called Taber in Oregon for his response and got voice mail. As of this posting, he has not called me back.

In the meantime, investigators say before dealing with any hearing aid marketer, take time to make sure they're licensed and qualified to do the work in a reputable manner. And if you feel you've been the victim of a hearing aid deception, be sure file a report with your local police.