Guilty Verdict Upheld Against Texas Alarm Salesman

Harris County Court of Appeals affirms conviction for deceptive business practices by security salesman. Sentenced to 1-year in county jail.

Guilty Verdict Upheld Against Texas Alarm Salesman

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A Texas court of appeals has upheld a jury verdict against an alarm company salesperson who was found guilty of violating the state’s Deceptive Business Practices law as an appellant.

According to the decision rendered by the 14th Criminal Court of Appeals of Texas in Harris County, defendant Marc Wakefield Dunham misrepresented himself to an elderly client as an employee of her existing security company.

The woman told the jury that she did not realize he was from a different company until she was signing the paperwork for the takeover, by which time a technician was already in the house performing the installation.

The transcript of the decision from the court reads as follows:

Dunham was a  door-to-door  salesman  for  Capital  Connect. On or about June 15, 2016, Appellant [Dunham] rang the doorbell of Eloise Moody, an 81-year-old lady recently widowed  and  diagnosed  with  cancer.  When Moody answered,  Appellant pointed at the “Central Security Group” alarm sign in Moody’s front yard and said: “I’m  here  to  update  your  security.”

Appellant also said,  referring  to  the  Central  Security  Group  sign,  “I’ll  put  a  light  on  it,  make  it  visible  from  the  street” which  he  explained  would  be  helpful  to  “update  the  neighborhood.”

Appellant was  not  wearing  a  uniform  or  name  tag  and  did  not  say  what  company  he  worked  for.  Moody, therefore, understood Appellant to  be  employed  by  her  alarm  company  (Central)  and  that  he  was  intending to place a light on the sign in her front yard.

Appellant then stepped into Moody’s doorway  prompting  her  to  open  the  door  further. As he did this, Appellant said: “Would you like me to pull off my shoes. I don’t know what your panel looks like.”

Still believing that Appellant was employed by Central, Moody told him the panel was “in the back of the house through the laundry, through the kitchen.” Moody testified that she would never have let Appellant enter her home if she had known he worked for a different company.

Appellant walked deep into the house, peeked at the panel in the laundry room and then asked, “Can we sit here and talk?” so he could use the kitchen tabletop to write on. With Moody sitting at the table, Appellant presented various new features to Moody and told her that the  features  and  their  installation  would  be  free.

According to Moody, Appellant kept saying, “This is free. It won’t cost you anything.” Moody was still under the engineered impression  that  Appellant  worked  for  her  original  alarm  company.  She would later find out that these “free” new features came with a contract that was far more expensive than her existing one.

Appellant then called Central to have Moody cancel her contract, and he told her that if they gave her any “flak” she should tell them that the Central hardware was “being taken out,” and hand the phone to him and tell them that he was her son. Although Moody later  told  Appellant  that  she  could  not  do  anything  without  her  daughter’s  approval,  Appellant continued with the sale.

According to Moody, during this call, a Capital Connect technician summoned by Appellant had already arrived and was in the process of removing the Central system and rewiring the house for Capital’s hardware. Appellant   also   telephoned Capital   Connect   and   had   Moody   speak   with   a   representative.  A recording of the call was admitted into evidence.

Moody said that she was currently paying Central. When the representative asked her if she was having a new alarm system installed  because  the  prior  company  was  going  out  of  business,  had  been  taken over, or was no longer able to perform monitoring services, Moody answered, “No, I’m  just  changing  it  up.”

The representative then  asked  if  Moody  understood  that  by  accepting the offer, she would be changing alarm companies, and she responded, “That I will what” and “I’m not understanding you.” The representative said that Capital Connect is a separate company from Central, and Moody said “Yes.” Later during the call, Moody stated she was having difficulty hearing.

When Appellant presented her with the paperwork, she realized he didn’t work for Central, but she signed anyway and entered into a five-year agreement with Capital with a higher monthly cost—roughly double her service fees through Central. She also initialed next to the following statement: “I understand that Capital Connect has not bought, taken over or is in any way partnered with my current alarm monitoring company.”

She testified that she did  not  realize  how  much  the  new  system  was  going  to  cost.  A few  days  later,  Moody canceled the new contract with Capital.

Appellant was charged with deceptive business practices pursuant to Penal Code § 32.42(b). Specifically, the information alleged that Appellant intentionally, knowingly, and recklessly:

(1) represented that a commodity or service was of a particular style, grade, or model, when it was another, by giving the impression to Eloise Moody that an alarm system was a Central Security Group system when it was actually a Capital Connect system;

(2) represented the price of the service falsely or in a way tending to mislead by telling Moody  that  a  new  alarm  installation  would  be  free  when  it  would actually require her to sign a new contract at additional cost; and/or

(3) made a materially false or misleading statement in connection with the purchase or  sale  of  a  service  by  telling  Moody  that  a  new  alarm  installation would be free when such installation actually would require her to sign a new contract at additional cost.

He pleaded not guilty  and  was  tried  before  a  jury  who  found  him  guilty  of  the  offense. The trial court sentenced Appellant to one year in the county jail, and the court of appeals affirmed.

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About the Author

Contact:

Jason Knott is Chief Content Officer for Emerald Expositions Connected Brands. Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990, serving as editor and publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He joined CE Pro in 2000 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of that brand. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He has been a member of the CEDIA Business Working Group since 2010. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jason at [email protected]

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