Bellingham police warn residents about paving scammers

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- Bellingham police are investigating a ring of paving operators they say may be scamming unwary property owners up and down the I-5 corridor.

The group has complaints in both Whatcom and King counties and police are warning people to be on alert.

At the Soy House Restaurant in Bellingham, stripes of unfinished asphalt show where the I-5 Paving Company did its work. According to Bellingham Police Sergeant Carr Lanham, the roving crew makes the same offer, over and over.

"Guy came in, walked in the office, and said he had some leftover blacktop," property owner Bob Bray said of the man who approached him.

According to police and several property owners, the crew also reportedly uses local names to build trust. They convinced George Dyson by saying they were working with his neighbor, Bray.

"They were doing this job for my neighbor, whose name I knew and I totally trust," Dyson said.

They told Bray that they'd just finished work at the Soy House Restaurant two blocks away. What they didn't say is how they left the parking lot at the restaurant after Sgt. Lanham says they demanded - and got - more money.

"They said we're gonna go, get more asphalt, we'll be back in a couple of weeks finish the job," Lanham said. "They never showed up."

Bray okayed the crew to fill a couple of potholes. At the bargain rate they quoted him, he figured it would be about $50. Instead he found them paving his entire alley. He stopped them, but then came the demand for payment. A big payment, according to Bray.

"Yeah, $6,500," he said. "I said, 'You're out of your mind.'"

Bray refused to pay, but Dyson says he felt intimidated by the group.

"Just right on the edge of what's legal, but way over the edge of what's ethical," Bray said.

Between the Soy House Restaurant and Dyson, the police say the I-5 Paving Company made off with thousands of dollars.

A quick google search for the "I-5 Paving Company" shows the only listings are two complaints for similar problems. Bellingham Police advise before you ever give anyone money, check them out online. They add all their attempts to contact the I-5 Paving Company to see if it is legitimate have been unsuccessful. You can find more on the Bellingham cases here.