Technician Who Nearly Lost His Life Wasn’t Alone

Three other former Rooter Rite employees say they were also told to ‘break pipes.'
Technician Who Nearly Lost His Life Wasn’t Alone
Gas line David Hidalgo was told to break. (Photos and video courtesy KOIN)

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Turns out an Oregon technician who came close to losing his life when his boss texted him to break a sewer pipe that turned out to be a gas line, wasn’t alone.

Three other former employees of Rooter Rite Plumbing & Drain Cleaning Services have since said they received similar messages.

“I just have to get it off my chest,” Mike Zepeda told KOIN 6 in Portland, Oregon. “When you’re having to scam people out of thousands of dollars they worked hard for, it’s a bad situation, truly.”

Robert Elliott says Rooter Rite employees were often asked to do things they weren’t comfortable with like breaking pipes, exaggerating the amount of damages to homeowners, and increasing jobs with small repairs to large ones.

Another former employee, Daniel Schroeder, tells a similar story:

“He asked me, ‘Is anyone there?’ I told him no. Alright, ‘Break that sewer line,’” Schroeder said. “I broke it and I call him back and he tells me to grab all the roots around the sewer line so it looks like it’s the roots that broke it.”

David Hidalgo nearly lost his life his first day on the job when the pipe he was told to break turned out to be a gas line.

Joel Kinney had called Rooter Rite Plumbing & Drain Cleaning Services in August to fix a blocked sewage line at his home.

“They came out, were just supposed to run a snake down it and unplug it,” Kinney told the TV station. “They told us they kept breaking blades, that there was some separation in the pipe, there were all sorts of problems.”

Hidalgo, who was left alone at Kinney’s home, received a text from Mike Lima, owner of the plumbing company, to dig down to the sewer line.

“When I get down to the green pipe I give him a call and say… ‘What do I do from there?'” Hidalgo told KOIN 6. “And he says, ‘Grab the jackhammer and break it.'”

Hidalgo suspected something was wrong and told Kinney he suspected a scam.

“I’m eating lunch and he knocks on my door and says, ‘Hey bro, can I talk to you?’ and he brings me out and he says, ‘I think they’re scamming you,'” Kinney said. “I’m like, what are you talking about? (He said), ‘He told me to break your pipe.'”

When Kinney looked closer, he realized the pipe Hidalgo was asked to break was a gas line.

“With all the sparks from this river rock, he would have been vaporized,” Kinney said.

The Oregon Contractors Construction Board is investigating two of the cases involving Rooter Rite. The company has since taken its website offline. 


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