January 26, 2007
Lebanon, Mo. — The owner of a fire extinguisher service business in Cabool who was paid to recharge and service the extinguishers of area consumers but then failed to do the work must now comply with the law. Attorney General Jay Nixon obtained a temporary restraining order today against Fred McNew, owner of Missouri Fire Extinguisher Company, in LaClede County Circuit Court.
Nixon says McNew is believed to have serviced fire extinguishers for businesses in southern Missouri from the Kansas line to the Illinois line since at least May 2002. After McNew was arrested in October 2006 by the Lebanon Police Department for allegedly defrauding a local business, the Attorney General's Office launched an investigation that included contacting 90 consumers who were listed in McNew's receipt books as having had their devices serviced by the defendant.
According to many of those consumers, McNew allegedly took payment to recharge and service the extinguishers but did not perform the work, leaving some of the devices inoperable. The defendant also allegedly inserted carbon dioxide into a consumer's dry chemical fire extinguisher, which can render the extinguisher inoperable; misrepresented to consumers that they needed to have their devices serviced and recharged every two to three months, when fire codes actually did not require such services to be performed more than once a year; allegedly lied to a consumer that the fire marshal had sent him to inspect the consumer's fire extinguishers; and allegedly removed consumers' fire extinguishers from their premises without leaving them a substitute or replacement, putting the consumer in violation of the city fire code.
“Mr. McNew's alleged fraudulent behavior put many Missourians at risk of being unable to put out a fire at their business or home,” Nixon said. “Such unconscionable conduct created dangerous situations at untold numbers of businesses and residents' homes across southern Missouri, where consumers would have had no idea their extinguisher did not work until they attempted to use it against a fire.”
Nixon issued a consumer alert in November warning businesses across Missouri that had their extinguishers serviced by McNew to have the devices checked after the Missouri State Fire Marshal's office determined that some of them were not in working order. To date, there have been at least three fires where a McNew-serviced extinguisher failed to function properly. Fortunately, in all three cases consumers were able to put out the fires using another method before significant damage occurred.
In addition to the temporary restraining order, Nixon is also requesting that the court order McNew to: