Kym Kemp / @ 2:28 p.m. / Crime

Bad Business Plan or Bad Guys: Carpet Cleaning Solicitors in Very Rural Southern Humboldt


UPDATE: We reached the company. The spokesperson said that they did have a white Chevy Suburban with three or four men operating out of Colusa over the weekend but that they were back in Oregon by Monday.

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Over the last few days, several men in an older Chevy Suburban with Oregon license plate number 742 ESY have been driving out to extremely rural homes and offering their services as carpet cleaners or, in at least one case, as house painters. The men are described as dark complected with one being tall but slightly built about 40 years old and another as much younger and broad shouldered. This has rural residents concerned that the men might be casing their residences.

“I live on a private dirt road,” explained Jimmy Friel about his rural neighborhood in Southern Humboldt near Whitethorn. “There are only three homes out here.” Friel was walking his herd of goats to another area up this road when he saw what he described as a primer grey Chevy Suburban driving by. Surprised, because he didn’t recognize the vehicle, he waved them down. The passenger, whom Friel spoke of as “disarmingly charming,” claimed to be going door to door looking for carpet cleaning jobs.

Friel said that initially he just thought these people were lost. He quickly explained to them, “There’s nobody on the road here. It is a really bad idea to be doing what you are doing. If you want to go door to door, town would be a better place.”  He even got the following business card from them. Efforts to contact the business’ listed number have gone unanswered.

He says, “I still was naively thinking maybe they just had a bad business plan.” But after they left, he said he began to think how “absurd” it was to be driving miles out dirt roads looking for such work. They would burn a great deal of gas and secure very few jobs if any.

Friel quickly learned that there were others who had had similar questions. Mark Arroyo, who lives near Briceland, was startled by a knock on his door this last Friday. He described answering the knock to find a dark complected man that was “really amicable.”  The man, Arroyo said, was a guy that could easily talk his way into homes. At one point the man reached across him to open the door behind Arroyo. Arroyo let him know that wasn’t appropriate. At this point, Arroyo’s large dog began acting unfriendly and the man left. He got into what Arroyo described as a Chevy Suburban with at least two other dark complected men and drove away.

Arroyo posted about his experience on Facebook showing the below photo as being very like the vehicle he encountered and was quickly flooded with others describing similar experiences from Benbow to Shelter Cove.

Sergeant K. Ireland of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s office said that his agency had been contacted about the vehicle. He urged caution in dealing with the individuals. “It is unusual for anyone to be attempting to solicit business in such a rural part of any county,” he noted. “I would recommend anyone who observes unknown persons on private roadway to contact law enforcement. Outside of a lost person, they have no lawful reason to be on a private road whatsoever.”

However, if contact with the individuals is unavoidable, such as if they are knocking at a door, don’t open up. “I would highly recommend,” he explained, “that people communicate through a closed door. Tell them to leave.” He pointed out that in an area subject to a higher level of home invasions that being cautious was a good idea.

He also suggested trying to gather as much physical information as possible without endangering anyone. “Providing as much description as possible would assist us in being able to locate subjects,” he said. The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office can be contacted at 707-445-7251.


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