Message from Chief Investigative Reporter Eric Ross
In 2018, our News 5 Investigates team produced nearly 100 investigations. We held public officials accountable, fought for transparency and most importantly, we fought for you. Together, I'm proud to say our work has led to changes in state law, held con artists accountable for their actions and helped victims get their money back. 'Always Watching Out for You' isn't just a saying you hear at the beginning of every newscast. It's our commitment to deliver quality investigations that not only expose wrongdoing, but get results. We're here to make a difference in our community. The majority of our investigations come directly from viewers like you. We depend on you to let us know if there's someone taking advantage of the system, scamming people or wasting your hard earned tax dollars. If you have a problem or issue you'd like to bring to our attention, please call our 24-hour news tip hotline at 719-228-6275.
A look back at 2018:
During the first half of 2018, much of our time was spent exposing how squatters were able to gain legal to homes they didn't own or pay rent on. The squatting problem quickly gained the attention of lawmakers who passed Senate Bill 15 as a result of our investigative reporting. Prior to the passage of SB 15, property owners were waiting weeks or even months to go through the eviction process to get squatters out of their homes. Now, squatting cases must be heard within 24 hours. Sheriff's deputies can then legally remove squatters within 24 hours after a Writ of Restitution (removal order) is granted by a judge. Our previous coverage on squatters can be found in this special report which aired in September of last year.
Years of abuse and neglect at the El Pueblo Boys and Girls Ranch:
News 5 Investigates was first to unlock sustained complaints of abuse and neglect at the facility for teens and young adults with psychiatric and behavioral issues. The Colorado Department of Human Services kept these cases on file, but they were kept hidden from the public's view. News 5 Investigates only obtained them after filing a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request and paying hundreds of dollars for the agency to release them.
While the facility is permanently closed, there are still questions over why none of the employees at the facility were charged with abuse or neglect.
News 5 Investigates asked the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office twice whether it had taken any criminal case reports regarding suspected abuse and neglect. The agency found a total of four "informational" reports on file that according to the PCSO, didn't rise the level of abuse or neglect. Therefore, no charges were filed and the cases were never turned over to the District Attorney's Office for Review.
You can watch our initial story on the closure of El Pueblo here, as well as our follow-up story where CDHS answered questions about why it took so long for them to take action and close down the center.
Does the State of Colorado owe you money?
The Great Colorado Payback program is supposed to reunite Coloradans with lost assets from old bank accounts and inheritance money you may have forgotten about. During the first quarter of 2018, News 5 found nearly $1 billion in assets waiting to be collected.
We began looking into the program after one Colorado Springs resident struggled for months to get the money he was rightfully owed.
Shortly after News 5 Investigates started asking questions about Joel Phillips' case, the State immediately processed his refund.
To find out whether the State owes you money, you can visit the Great Colorado Payback program's web site by clicking here.
Ex-Sheriff's Office dive team member charged with felony theft:
After News 5 Investigates started asking questions about Joe Pacheco's side business as a contractor, the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office cut ties with him.
Pacheco, the owner of JP Home Improvements, is accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars for multiple customers by promising renovation work he never completed.
The PCSO opened an investigation and turned over the evidence to the District Attorney's Office for review.
Pacheco now faces 14 felony counts of theft and is due back in court Jan. 14.
Viewers respond to News 5 investigations
We don't like to take credit for helping people---that's our job. However, News 5 Investigates would like to give credit and share its gratitude to viewers who watched our investigations and decided to step up to the plate to help.
In May 2018, Pamela Goddard reached out to News 5 for help after she says a tow truck driver towed her car out from under her own car port in the middle of the night because he believed the registration was expired. News 5 uncovered Goddard's registration was valid---she simply didn't put the new registration sticker on the car since she had been dedicating all of her time to care for her dying husband. Even if her tags had been expired, she still fell within the 30-day grace period to get them renewed.
MNS Towing would not answer any questions regarding the tow, but did say they would not be issuing a refund.
After our story aired, a good samaritan from Peterson Air Force Base donated $300 to help Goddard get her car out of impound.
Complaints against tow truck companies are investigated by the Public Utilities Commission.
Hail repair company accused of fraud and forgery
In July 2018, News 5 Investigates uncovered employees at a pop up hail repair tent forged a customer's signature to defraud a Veteran's insurance company of $5,000.
To make matters worse, the repair center didn't fix the hail damage on Vernon Jones' truck.
News 5 Investigates uncovered the pop up hail center was also falsely claiming to be a BBB-accredited business.
Employees didn't have an explanation on their advertising practices and offered no comment on who fraudulently cashed in on the insurance money.
Management at Service King Collision Repair saw our report and fixed Jones' truck for free.
Although Colorado Springs police have not made any arrests in this case, a spokesperson for the department reiterates the case is still part of an active, ongoing criminal investigation.
2019: Our commitment to you
As we enter a new year, our commitment remains the same. In fact, we deeply believe in producing investigations that hold the powerful accountable and make our community a better, safer place to live and work. News 5 Investigates is expanding its team with the addition of reporter Patrick Nelson. While we are happy to hear from you via telephone, you can also reach us by email too. Our email address is News5Investigates@KOAA.com.