By Brad Edwards

CHICAGO (CBS) — DEFENDERS was a home security company with such questionable practices that a CBS 2 investigation got the Better Business Bureau to pull its rating – while it investigated their procedures.

DEFENDERS was ADT’s top national authorized dealer. And now in a move that has baffled former customers, and employees, ADT is shelling out nine figures to buy the company despite continued questions about how it operates.

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Our CBS 2 investigation went from Chicago, to Shreveport, Louisiana; Pasadena, Maryland; and Lima, Ohio.

The promise – per an ad you may have seen yourself – was a secure home for $27.99 a month and a bunch of other free stuff.

In our months-long inquiry, we couldn’t find anyone who got that advertised deal.

“The guy talked me into about $1,400, I believe, worth of equipment,” one man said.

“Over a $3,000 bill,” a woman said.

“An estimate of $12,000,” another woman said.

The company also got hundreds of complaints a year to the Better Business Bureau. We went to the BBB in Indianapolis, where DEFENDERS is located. This was CBS 2’s Edwards’ conversation with Tim Maniscalo, president of BBB in Central Indiana, in February 2019.

Edwards: “They have 1,600 complaints with you guys, yet an A+ rating. How?”

Maniscalo: “They are prompt with addressing their complaints, and they do that in good faith.”

Edwards: “So you will consider something resolved, even if the customer is still unhappy and claims the company is lying?”

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Maniscalo: “Correct.”

Companies pay an accreditation fee to the BBB. The BBB never told us what DEFENDERS paid.

DEFENDERS chief executive officer and president Dave Lindsey lives in a sprawling mansion in Indianapolis. The Lindseys refused our numerous inquiries for an on-camera interview.

Prior to our February 2019 story even running, DEFENDERS’ A+ rating was pulled.

Flash forward to now – DEFENDERS inexplicably got it’s A+ back – despite now having 1,992 complaints in the current three-year period. The complaints have gone up significantly.

Meanwhile, ADT has now agreed to pay Lindsey and his wife $120 million in ADT shares for DEFENDERS.

“We’re excited to officially join forces with the impressive DEFENDERS team after successfully partnering with them for 22 years,” ADT Chief Executive Officer Jim DeVries said in a statement.

Back to customers. Many said a DEFENDERS representative would come to customers’ houses and drill a hole in the wall right way. Former install technician Stephen “Chris” Dobson said it was all part of the strategy.

“Because now either they’re going to get a system or they’re going to patch a wall, and nobody wants to patch a wall,” Dobson said. “We were doing way more than protect their homes. They didn’t need all that crap. That was way above and beyond what they needed. That was to get us money.”

These are the 140 complaints logged by the Indiana attorney general over the years. DEFENDERS operated under four different names.

As to how they got their A+ back, the Better Business Bureau tells us that defenders showed “responsiveness to BBB’s suggestions for improvement” after our investigation.

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ADT refused to answer our questions. DEFENDERS didn’t bother to respond.

Brad Edwards