ATOKA, Tenn. — A Tipton County couple has a warning for customers after an electrician did unlicensed work on their home.
Jeffery Phillips and his wife enjoy living on multiple acres in rural Tipton County. But after three years, they wanted to make a small change.
"The only thing it really needed updated was the electrical box because we had the old screw in fuses. A lot of times we couldn't tell if the fuses were burned out or not," Phillips said.
They wanted to switch from fuses to breakers for safety reasons. So they called an electrician they heard about.
"A friend of a friend knew he did good work. So we were going on their word," he said.
They hired that man, Danny J. Wenzler. His business card clearly said "Master Electrician." He also gave them an invoice for the work: $1,000. They paid him and Wenzler started. But Phillips noticed something odd.
"If someone's working on a job, they shouldn't be on the phone with someone else getting advice on how to do a job. If they're supposed to be a master electrician, they should know what to do," he said.
Sure enough, once Wenzler left, they had some major issues.
"We have two heaters in our bathroom one heater would come on the other one doesn't. Then we started checking the heating in the house. We only had two rooms in the whole house the heat will come on," he said.
Phillips took action. He called an electrical inspector with the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. According to an assessment completed by inspector Joel Crofton, their home failed, and that's not all the inspector did.
"We had our power shut off because it was the wrong size box, not enough circuit breakers, wires hanging out," Phillips said.
Phillips called Wenzler to ask about the failed inspection.
"He said his work was fine. He said he did his work like he was supposed to," Phillips said. "We called him several times and he wouldn't return my call."
That's when he called the WREG Problem Solvers. We checked online records for Wenzler's Tennessee electrician's license through the Department of Commerce and Insurance. It would be classified as a "Limited Licensed Electrician." The Problem Solvers didn't find anything.
The Problem Solvers wanted to ask Danny Wenzler about his license and what happened at the Phillips's home, so we went to his Cordova address. WREG could see his distinct red car parked in the driveway; the same one Phillips said he drove to their Atoka home.
When we went to the door, a man answered but wouldn't show his face and identified himself as the younger Wenzler. Problem Solver Stacy Jacobson asked if Danny Wenzler was home. The man said he was away in Texas working. When she followed up and said we wanted to know about one of his electrical jobs and if he's licensed, the man slammed the door and locked it.
The Problem Solvers came back a few days later and knocked again. No one answered. But then, when we were across the street talking to a neighbor, he sped off in the same red car.
Neighbors said Danny Wenzler was the one who answered the door the first time we came by.
We did finally get him to explain what happened at the Phillips' home on the phone. He admitted to doing unlicensed work in Tipton County but he was adamant he had a license in Shelby County.
Shelby County code enforcement said that was not true, however. They said the 66-year-old has a "EO22," otherwise known as a retired master electrician's license. It's cheaper than an active license and cannot be used to pull permits to perform work.
Wenzler told the Problem Solvers he would not give Phillips his $1,000 back. Instead, he felt they owed him money for the materials. He said he stood by his work, even though it failed the inspection, and criticized the inspector's capabilities.
By now, the Phillips have a new crew fixing Wenzler's work so they can get their electricity back. It's causing a big strain.
"I'm taking the last $1,000 I got in my bank account to pay these gentlemen," he said.
That's why he had this warning for others who need work done at home.
"If they're going to hire somebody, really check into them. find out exactly who they are, if they're a master electrician, find out more about them," he said.
They're also taking this case to law enforcement and to court.
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