Tree service with sketchy past being questioned again

The city of South Bend wants to warn residents about a convicted conman who’s been going door-to-door in the city offering up his services.

Gary Franklin and his brother, Rick, used to operate a business under the name of Wayne’s Tree and Landscaping Service, but their license was revoked last summer amidst a police investigation.

Now, several residents say the Franklins have recently knocked on their doors, offering to trim trees.

It wouldn’t be the first time they’ve tried to do business without a license.

Just about a week after having it revoked last summer, Rick Franklin was involved in a bucket truck accident with his 8-year-old nephew within city limits.

After that, the brothers were banned from operating a tree service in South Bend.

But, those who know more about Gary Franklin’s past may wonder why he was allowed to be back in business in the first place.

When we rolled our NewsCenter 16 archive tapes back nearly two decades, we came across at least a dozen stories about how now 49-year-old Gary Franklin and his conman past.

In October 1994, Franklin scammed Marvel Schoe out of nearly $3,000 for a tree removal he never did.

And, that was just the beginning.

Not long after bonding out of jail, Franklin was slapped with a separate, but similar, theft charge.

He was supposed to fertilize an elderly woman’s lawn and take down a tree – both jobs he never did, but got paid twice for.

“What he did was come back and tell her he lost the first check for $500 and she wrote another check without stopping the payment and he ended up cashing both checks,” a police officer told NewsCenter 16 in 1994.

But, even that doesn’t seem like much when you compare it to one of the biggest home improvement scams in St. Joseph County history.

“I’m innocent,” Gary Franklin told our camera in 1995 after bonding out of jail. “Go bother someone that’s guilty.”

Franklin later pleaded guilty and was convicted of swindling an elderly woman out of $500,000.

Fast forward to this week, and the city of South Bend says Gary Franklin is once again soliciting his tree trimming services to residents.

And, all indications are he might be doing it under a different company name – “Al Season Tree Service.”

While the Franklin brothers were banned from operating a tree service in South Bend, they aren’t prohibited from working for other tree service companies licensed in the city.

NewsCenter 16 tried contacting Gary Franklin multiple times Saturday, but our calls weren’t returned.

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