Sacramento woman, 91, financed solar panels she'd pay off at age 114 — now her estate is suing for elder abuse

Sacramento woman, 91, financed solar panels she'd pay off at age 114 — now her estate is suing for elder abuse

Sacramento woman, 91, financed solar panels she’d pay off at age 114 — now her estate is suing for elder abuse

Phyllis Simmons was 91 years old when she signed up for solar panels — a $35,000+ project she’d apparently pay off when she turned 114.

But Simmons died mere months after the solar panels were installed and her family is now suing for elder financial abuse.

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Daniel Lessard, the salesman listed on the 2019 contract for the Freedom Forever solar panels, says Simmons’ estate served him with a lawsuit claiming elder financial abuse years after he left Apricot Solar, the company that conducted the solar panels business.

“I’ve never met Simmons a day in my life,” Lessard told CBS13’s Kurt Investigates. “I learned about Ms. Simmons when I got the complaint.”

Lessard says he was used as a ‘scapegoat for fraud’

Lessard believes his name was forged by another sales representative, reportedly claiming in court-filed documents that Apricot Solar CEO Dave Bengel asked for his login credentials to the company sales portal to help out another salesperson.

“As somebody who was just trying to be a team player and just do what my boss asked me, I reluctantly agreed, having no idea of the consequences of what he was asking me to do,” Lessard recounts.

He says other Apricot Solar employees who weren’t actually licensed to sell solar panels were also using his login credentials to DocuSign his name in contracts — and two former employees also support his claim.

The former Apricot Solar Vice President allegedly said in court documents, “During my tenure, it was prevalent for CEO Dave Bengel to endorse forgery in an attempt to boost sales.”

Simmons’ estate has dropped Lessard from its lawsuit, but is still charging Apricot Solar and Freedom Forever for fraud and elder financial abuse. Bengel denies these allegations in court documents, but did not respond to CBS13 for comment.

“I didn’t get paid by any of this,” Lessard says. “I had no reason to do any of this. I was entirely used as a scapegoat for fraud to make this company more profitable.

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Freedom Forever has been fined before

Previously, CBS13 reported Sacramento homeowner Andrea Bokreta met with Freedom Forever to discuss installing solar panels on her roof — but even though she claims she never signed a contract or had these panels installed, she received an invoice billing her $11,640.

Bokreta also mentioned she gave the salesperson her Social Security number because he needed it for an estimate and a credit check. Lessard believes this may have been her undoing.

“If you’re providing your Social Security number, you need to understand that you are filling out a loan application,” Lessard says, adding that a salesperson could potentially use your personal information to electronically sign your name.

In the meanwhile, CBS13 reports the California Contractors State License Board has fined Freedom Forever more than a dozen times since 2017 for breaking multiple regulations and the state is going after the company’s license.

Other homeowners have also spoken to the news organization about getting billed for solar panels they never signed up for through Freedom Forever — but had their contracts canceled by the company after CBS contacted Freedom Forever directly.

“The referenced claim of customers not being able to recall agreeing to a contract can be disproven,” Freedom Forever emailed CBS News Texas earlier this year.

“In these rare examples of customers experiencing buyer’s remorse and failing to cancel as contractually outlined in the Supply & Installation agreement, Freedom Forever has continued to go above and beyond and cancel their contract with no financial repercussion to the customer.”

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This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.

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