Chicago families claim they lost insurance money to scammers

WGN Investigates

CHICAGO — Two Chicago families claimed they were swindled out of thousands of dollars when they tried to repair their roofs.

In both instances, they hired a state-licensed public adjuster named Jhon H. Linares, and his recommended contractor, an Elgin-based company called Advanced Exterior Group.

In one of the cases, Alma Rodriguez tells WGN Investigates she was approached by Linares in Spring 2018. He helped her file a claim with her insurance company and weeks later she received a check for more than $5,500 to repair the hail-damaged roof of her Southwest Side bungalow.

Per the contract, Linares waived his fee, a 30 percent commission, if Rodriguez hired Advanced Exterior.

She agreed and claims she signed over the check to Linares.

All seemed good, until days of waiting turned into weeks and then months.

Now, more than two years later, no work has been performed and her money is gone.

Meanwhile, the leaks in her roof have grown worse and black mold has spread across the walls and ceiling of her home’s top-floor.

“If they had fixed it two years ago, I don’t think this would’ve happened,” Rodriguez said.

WGN Investigates found she’s not alone.

Pablo Antonio Juarez and his family have sued Linares and Advanced Exterior in Cook County Circuit Court for fraud and breach of contract.

They said that after Linares helped them file a claim with their insurer, they received a check for $23,000 to fix a damaged roof. The family also signed over the check to Linares and agreed to hire Advanced Exterior.

Two years later, they’re also still waiting for their money and the repairs.

“My clients did not know that Mr. Linares had a relationship with Advanced Exterior Group,” James Dore, Juarez’s attorney, said. “Under the Public Adjusters Act you’re required…to disclose any relationship you have with these construction companies just so everything is out in the open.” 

Dore saidthe Juarez family won a default judgment in September.

Linares is now seeking to vacate that decision.

WGN Investigates learned of the situation through Harry Meyer, of the Southwest Organizing Project, a Chicago-based community group that Rodriguez turned to for help.

WGN Investigates looked into Linares’ background and found he has worked throughout the U.S., including Miami where he was arrested in 2006 for illegal dumping. When applying for his public adjuster’s license, he told Illinois regulators he didn’t do the dumping and was sentenced to “probation.” 

The state gave him a license anyway then revoked it last year because Linares let his insurance lapse and is no longer bonded.

WGN Investigates finally reached Linares and Advanced Exterior by phone. They each blamed the other for Rodriguez’s work not getting done. And someone from Advanced said the money would be returned.  

But Rodriguez is still waiting.

“Day-by-day it’s getting worse and worse,” she said. 

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