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Stachybotrys toxic mold growing on and in drywall.

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House Cooking: Investigators
probe invasive mold scam
By Robert Preuss, published on cmmonline.com, June, 2002


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX — Instead of cleaning up mold, some remediation firms purposefully proliferate mold growth in an attempt to cash in on high-rate clean-ups.

That's the disturbing report from the Texas Department of Insurance, which is spurring investigation into the alleged practice of "house-cooking."

A description of the practice appeared in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times: Workers convince the homeowner that a mold problem exists and occupants must leave the house. Then they foster mold growth by closing windows, shutting off ventilation, putting wet towels in the house/and or wetting upholstery and fabrics, and cranking up the heat.

So, far the state's attorney general has not filed charges against any firm. Suspicion, however, fell on Nueces County when insurance data revealed that, although it was responsible for only 1 percent of the state's homeowner's policies, it was the center of 8 percent of mold-related claims of $15,000 or more.

According to the Caller-Times, Department of Public Safety and US Customs officials searched the offices of Mold Inc., Portland, TX, under warrant, but no charges had been filed.

News that this dubious practice might be occurring surprised sources contacted by CMe-News Daily, including Irvine, CA-based Attorney Edward H. Cross, who specializes in indoor air quality issues. Cross wondered if anyone — other than those in the employ of insurance companies — found evidence related to the allegations.

'Cooked' houses yield clues

One source — a principal with an investigating firm — told the Caller-Times that, in one case, a homeowner blamed an air conditioning unit for a mold problem. Investigators found a tool box that had been flooded, indicating that water had been poured into the home.

There may be other kinds of clues in 'cooked' houses.

"For the most part sprayed drapes (resulting in mold) and moldy furniture in absence of a flood, other water intrusion or HVAC problems would certainly raise some big questions. I think that if this 'cooking' scam is suspected, it can also be proved within a reasonable certainty," said Patrick O'Donnell, of Enviro Team, a Pompano, FL-based consulting firm and environmental microbiology lab that specializes in diagnosing indoor environmental problems.

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