‘I’m eternally grateful to you:’ Help Me Hank comes to rescue after tree trimmer abandons job

Dangerous tree threatened woman’s Detroit home for months

A Detroit woman is out big money after the man she hired to clean up a mess abandoned the job.

DETROIT – A Detroit woman is out big money after the man she hired to clean up a mess abandoned the job.

The tree is big, it’s a mess and it’s a danger.

“I’ve been just terrified. It’s driving me crazy,” said Shahida Nurullah, the homeowner. “And I’m really, really fearful.”

This tree was severely damaged during those summer storms. Nurullah is terrified looking at it just hanging on in her backyard. One more storm and this tree could do major damage to her home and her neighbors. It’s why she took action in July. She hired John Turner who said he was with A.J.’s Landscaping.

“He said, ‘Yeah we’re gonna get the lift and we’re going to do it,’ and I was like ‘When?!’” said Nurullah.

She hired him to do the work in July. She paid him a deposit of more than $1,300 cash, money she had to borrow. Then she waited and waited -- no Turner. Meanwhile, the tree was hanging by a thread.

“Most of the time there’s no response, sometimes he will answer the phone, sometimes he’ll send me a text giving me excuses about what’s going on,” said Nurullah.

On the invoice given to Nurullah the company name listed is A.J.’s Landscaping. John Turner is the man she met with and gave the cash to. If you search the Better Business Bureau you will find several complaints about Turner and A.J.’s Landscaping. You will also see a common theme: People in these reports claim they paid Turner big money, yet the work was never done.

Confronting Turner

Turner himself denied our request for an interview, but we did speak with him briefly on the phone.

Hank: ‘Hi John? It’s Hank Winchester at channel 4.

John: “Can I help you?”

Hank: “Yeah, I need to talk to you regarding the house on Cheyenne, the tree that’s coming down.”

John: “Yeah, we had broken down trucks. We’re trying to get to that now.”

Hank: “It’s been more than a month, though, John and -- “

John: “Yeah, I know and I’ve talked to a lawyer and all that, but I got nothing to say to you. Please do not call or come to my house.”

Turner was not answering my other calls, and had Nurullah said he was no longer responding to her repeated calls and text messages. She was out big money, money she borrowed, remember, and still so worried about the danger hanging in her yard.

Dante Franco answers the call

I knew we needed to help her, so I turned to social media, putting out the call on Facebook and Instagram pages. That’s when I met this man:

“Sent me the post, and I said, ‘Send Hank my number, we’re willing to help,’” said Dante Franco.

A friend of Dante Franco, owner of Franco’s Tree Trimming and Removal, saw my post and passed it on to Franco. Within minutes, Franco and I were coming up with the plan to help Nurullah.

“It’s very disappointing to me, you know, because it gives a bad name to us when people don’t do what they say they’re going to do,” said Franco.

Franco and his crew volunteered their own time, on a Sunday morning, bringing in all the heavy duty equipment and doing this to make a difference

Finally, four months after Mother Nature’s fury, four months after a contractor who took her money and vanished, the troubling tree is now down.

“I’m eternally grateful to you, to Dante, to all these guys who are out here today on Sunday,” said Nurullah.

“If we can do it and we can help, we like to help. There are lot of people out there who need help, and it makes us feel good,” said Franco.

Help Me Hank

If you or someone you know needs help with a situation similar to this, contact Help Me Hank:

About the Author:

Hank Winchester is Local 4's Consumer Investigative Reporter and the head of WDIV's "Help Me Hank" Consumer Unit. He works to solve consumer complaints, reveal important recalls and track down thieves who have ripped off metro Detroiters.