CHICAGO (CBS) — He’s a Chicago firefighter and public servant, someone of trust. However questions are being raised about his side job for a company that does fire repairs.
CBS 2’s Dave Savini investigates accusations of using his firefighter position to profit off fire victims.
Devastation is what Rochelle Callaghan came home to in 2014. Her home burned after a power line fell on her deck and ignited a propane tank. She says fire restoration and board up companies lined her street hoping to get her business, but one man stood out.
“He came up to me and said, ‘My name is Tom Brown. I’m a Chicago fireman. I can help you out in this situation,'” said Callaghan.
Callaghan hired Brown and says he signed her repair contract claiming to own fire restoration business Pleasant Hill Construction, Inc.
“He absolutely used his position as a fireman to gain my trust,” said Callaghan.
She says Brown and the company collected $63,000 of fire insurance money before she fired them for numerous alleged building code shortcuts and shoddy work.
The 2-Investigators tracked down Brown working at another fire restoration job in Chicago. He did not answer questions. CBS 2 learned he is under investigation by the Chicago Fire Department’s Internal Affairs division for allegedly soliciting fire victims.
Callaghan says she later figured out Brown does not own Pleasant Hill Construction, Inc. A company lawyer says he does sales for them.
“Why are firemen allowed to go to the scene of a fire and solicit their business? It’s not right,” said Callaghan.
She says she reported to the Chicago Fire Department’s internal affairs that Brown and the crew failed to pull the proper permits for the fire repairs.
“Which meant that never got inspected by the City of Chicago,” said Callaghan.
She says outlets were missing wires and other problems led a different electrician to tell her it was not up to code.
“Little did I know that he created a fire hazard for me and my family,” said Callaghan. “He’s a fireman. It was unbelievable.”
Callaghan says she fired Brown and his and used her life savings to make repairs.
“My kids’ college money, my 401K, every savings, loans from my mother, from family – everything’s gone,” said Callaghan.
A Pleasant Hill attorney says Callaghan’s shoddy work allegations are untrue. They are suing her for breach of contract, defamation and filed a lien against her home.
Callaghan says she is counter-suing for fraud and all she lost.
The Chicago Fire Department can’t comment until the investigation into brown is finished.