DENVER — A KWGN Channel 2 investigation exposes a Colorado contractor accused of ripping off unsuspecting home owners by allegedly taking thousands of dollars for work that was not completed.
Area home owners found the contractor on Craigslist. In his ads, contractor Darrell Stone claims he is licensed, insured and reliable.
“I am a 34 year pro. We are insured and bonded contractors. Talk to my references, every one of my references gave me money up front,” Stone said to our undercover employee. But victims say there is another side to this contractor that is revealed only after he is paid a large deposit.
“Belligerent and violent and nasty” are the words Warren Petracek uses to describe Stone.
Petracek signed a contract with Stone to replace his siding and gutters.
Stone required more than $7,600 up front. Soon after the work started, Petracek noticed a big problem. There was a gap between the gutter and the roof, so Petracek did what a lot of homeowners would do. “I asked him to firm them up,” Petracek said. But, that is when Petracek believes Stone got angry and walked off the job.
Petracek said, “He told me I didn’t know what I was talking about, the gutters were installed correctly and he was going to make my life a living hell.” Photographs of the work Stone had done tell the story. The pictures show sections of the gutter missing after Petracek said Stone chopped off parts of the gutter with a hacksaw. “At that point I knew this was going south and he was taking my money south with him,” Petracek said.
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Our investigation uncovered Petracek is just one of at least a dozen customers who claim Stone took their money and ran.
Petracek said, “I felt like I was scammed.” He hired attorney Ross Ziev to file a lawsuit against Stone. Ziev said, “My client’s goal is to make sure that he stops ripping people off.” Ziev served Stone with a subpoena, but claims Stone was difficult to track down. “The numbers on the house didn’t match the property records for the neighborhood,” Ziev said.
Despite Stone’s Craigslist ads that say he has a license, we have learned Stone is not a licensed contractor. And while there are glowing online reviews about Stone saying “His work at my home and business was exceptional,” FOX 31 Denver obtained Craigslist records that reveal the reviews came from Stone’s email. Ziev said, “This is his M.O. This is what he does. He takes large deposits and then moves on to the next unsuspecting victim.”
Maro Casparian with the Denver District Attorney’s consumer fraud division told us that a contractor who requires a large deposit should be a red flag.
Casparian said, “You should never pay for anything up front.” Casparian also urges people to check out their contractor by searching rating web sites like the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
In Stone’s case, he has an “F” rating with the BBB due to unresolved complaints. Experts also recommend that you get a permit before starting the job then the city has to inspect when it’s finished. Casparian said, “I know a lot of people try to work around permits, but permits are there for the consumer’s protection as well as the city as well as your home.”
We tried to reach Stone, but when he failed to return our phone calls, we set up a rental property with cameras and left Stone a message requesting a remodel estimate.
Stone responded right away and arrived on time to review the request. Within minutes, he told our employee about his payment policy. Stone said, “It’s fifty percent of the job is paid up front.”
KWGN Channel 2 Investigative reporter Heidi Hemmat asked, “How do you respond to the allegation that you are a scammer?” Stone said, ”I don’t respond to that at all, I’m not a scammer.”
Petracek said, “He stole my money.” Stone allegedly took Petracek’s money and left him hacked off just like his gutters. Contractors are not regulated in Colorado. If you want information about a contractor, contact your county building department. Some counties offer license and permit information online.