Sacramento Estate Sues for Elder Abuse

( – The estate of Sacramento resident Phyllis Simmons is suing a solar panel company accusing it of fraud and elder abuse for convincing the 91-year-old woman to sign up for a more than $35,000 project that she would not have paid off until she was 114.

Just three months after solar panels sold by Apricot Solar were installed at her home, Phyllis Simmons passed away.

Simmons’ family sued the company and Daniel Lessard, the salesman listed on the 2019 contract for the installation of solar panels from Freedom Forever.

Lessard told CBS13 late last month that he never met Phillis Simmons and only learned her name when he received the complaint.

Lessard believes that another sales representative forged his name on the 2019 contract, claiming in court papers that Dave Bengel the CEO of Lessard’s now-former employer Apricot Solar had asked him for his log-in credentials to Apricot’s sales portal to assist another salesperson.

Lessard said he reluctantly agreed, telling CBS13 that he was “trying to be a team player” by doing what his boss asked. He added that he had no idea what the consequences of agreeing would be.

Lessard said other employees from Apricot Solar who were not licensed to sell solar panels had also used his log-in credentials to sign his name to contracts using DocuSign. Two former Apricot employees verified Lessard’s claim.

The former vice president of Apricot Solar said in court documents that Bengel routinely endorsed forgery on sales contracts to boost sales.

While Phyllis Simmons’ estate dropped Daniel Lessard from the lawsuit, it is still suing both Apricot Solar and Freedom Forever for elder financial abuse and fraud.

Dave Bengel denied the allegations in a court filing.

Freedom Forever has been investigated by the California Contractors State License Board in the past and has been fined over a dozen times in the last seven years for violating multiple regulations. Currently, the state is seeking to pull Freedom Forever’s license.

Lessard told CBS13 that he was “used as a scapegoat” to defraud customers and make the Apricot Solar more profitable.

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