Men thought to be scam artists run a legal business - KPTV - FOX 12

Men thought to be scam artists in SE Portland run a legal business

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Keith Way Keith Way
Surveillance image released Tuesday Surveillance image released Tuesday
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

Investigators now say two men they believed to be posing as city fire inspectors are in fact licensed professionals and run a legal business.

The two men were seen walking into stores along SE Hawthorne just after 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Owners of local businesses on the street thought the two men were trying to scam them out of money by offering to check their fire extinguishers in exchange for money up front.

But, after researching the two men, investigators say they work for Apollo Fire and Safety.

"We are a new company, and we don't have a lot of money," said owner Keith Way. "I'm the owner and I only have one other employee, in fact yesterday was his first day of training."

"We were walking around to different stores as a way to bring in new business the only way we know how, by hitting the pavement."

The company is operated out of Way's garage in Gresham. He says he was mortified after he found out businesses were turning him away because they thought he was out to scam them.

"I can see why the misconception is there," said Way. "A lot of people do get confused, when someone is coming in to look at fire protection equipment, you know it's a narrow line to walk and not give the impression we are with the fire department."

Portland Fire investigators admit they too believed it was scam at first, in light of recent scams involving people who pose as city fire inspectors.

But on Wednesday, they found out Way's business was certified through the city fire marshal's office in March and allowed to start business in April.

As of Wednesday, March 22, Apollo Fire and Safety was officially registered with the Better Business Bureau, according to documents obtained by FOX 12.

"I really feel for the guy," said Portland Fire Public Information Officer Rich Chatman.

"We understand in an economic climate like this, business is difficult, and sometimes this is the way they get business for a newly started company. In this case, we certainly don't want to damage his reputation or his ability to function."

Chatman says the big mix up is shedding new light on the bigger issue of how business owners can distinguish private companies, like Way's from city fire inspectors.

"Private companies do the actual tests on equipment like fire extinguishers, but then city fire inspectors come in and make sure those tests are done. These are two completely different groups that we are dealing with, and there are a variety of different private companies," said Chatman.

If you ever have concerns, investigators say you should always ask for identification. If you have further questions, a list of certified private companies is posted on the city's fire marshal web page.

Way says once his company gets enough money, they do plan to buy formal uniforms, a company car and business cards, to help with their credibility.

In the meantime, he holds no hard feelings toward investigators or business owners for the mix-up.

"I want people to know we aren't there to hurt anyone, not there to scam anyone, out there to provide service and keep community safe," said Way.

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