Tree ‘ninjas’ get the wrong house, mistakenly cut down family’s beloved oak tree

Around the South

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Sarah Martinez and her family woke up last month to the sound of chainsaws. They say they heard branches hit their roof and ran outside to see three men in their big oak tree, cutting it down.

“I yelled for them to stop but the tree was too far gone,” Martinez said.

It turns out, a neighbor was the one that hired St. Petersburg-based Tree Ninjas Tree Service to cut down a diseased tree, but workers got the wrong house and the wrong tree. Martinez said no one knocked on the door to double-check before they started cutting.

She said the workers called their boss and Ronnie Pownall showed up, apologetic.

“And we said that to him, ‘mistakes happen. this is a grave mistake but we just need you to do the right thing and fix it and he totally said he would the day of, and I believed him,” she said.

The couple wanted their sod replaced, the stump ground down, roots removed, broken sprinkler heads replaced. They wanted the yard put back together, and a replacement tree. He came back and did some work, but she still wasn’t happy.

“He said, “I just don’t have the equipment for this, you guys are asking too much, good luck,” Martinez said.

“I said, “there’s a huge root, which was there, it’s sticking out of the ground.’ And he told me, ‘well the root was here before I got here, and I said, ‘well yes, but it was hooked to a tree.'”

Pownall went inside the business when Better Call Behnken showed up with questions. He later sent this statement and promised to make things right.

“Tree Ninjas accepts responsibility for cutting the wrong tree, apologized and asked what we could do to fix our honest mistake. We have removed the tree, dump fees, ground the stump and delivered sod at our expense. We additional agreed to pay for soil prep and sod install. We purchased a new 15 foot live oak. Tree Ninjas strives daily for the highest level of customer service.”

Tree Ninjas

Pownall said the new tree should be delivered by Friday. If the name Ronnie Pownall sounds familiar, it should.

This isn’t the first time a consumer called me to get answers from Ronnie. In 2016, consumers complained he sold motorcycles on consignment and didn’t pay the owner or fork over titles. One customer turned in his Hummer as part of a consignment deal, and I found him driving it around for personal use, with the wrong license plate.

That same year, I found him renting out a foreclosure home to family who then got kicked out by the bank. Back then, every time I found him, he ran away without answering questions.

Ronnie Pownall was arrested in 2017 by the Pinellas Park Police Department and was charged with dealing in stolen property, title fraud, scheme to defraud and grand theft. Pinellas Park police investigators said Pownall sold a 2012 Harley Davidson “with the intent to deprive the other person.”

One charge was lowered to a misdemeanor in 2018 the other charges were dropped by the state attorney’s office.

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