Contractor accused of taking over a million dollars from customers now under investigation

Video: Contractor accused of taking over a million dollars from customers now under investigation

A local contractor accused of taking hundreds of thousands for home renovations not done is now under investigation.

Action 9 first exposed this company two months ago. Since then we’ve found homeowners claiming their losses could total more than a million dollars.

“The original porch came from the house,” Wendy Lemons said as she pointed to a grassy area.

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The empty backyard is all Lemons has to show for the $11,000 she paid a contractor to rebuild her porch last year.

“Sleepless nights, wondering what I could’ve done better,” Lemons said.

She’s one of dozens of consumers who feel burned by Trusted Development Group in Oakland after paying large deposits for work not completed and many times, not even started.

“They came in with a lot of promises,” Lemons said.

Since our last investigation into Trusted Development, we heard from 10 more homeowners who have similar complaints and some ex-employees had a lot to say.

“Alarming, surprising is an understatement. I gave in my resignation the day after the story aired,” said an ex-employee.

The ex-employee wants to remain anonymous. The person says the company was inundated with calls from angry customers, the owners stopped paying employees and claims the contractor was working on jobs before getting proper permits.

“Superintendents would call and say we need a permit for electrical, or plumbing permit and I would ask ‘How are we under construction if we don’t have the permits?’” the ex-employee said.

Chris and Allison Craft run Trusted Development Group and Action 9 found Chris Craft has a history in two other states. The Ohio attorney general acted against Craft for unfair and deceptive home contracting and he was barred from running a home construction business in that state. In Indiana he was charged with home improvement fraud, adjudication was withheld, but he paid restitution.

“I’ve been in construction for my entire career and I’ve never seen anything like this before, ever,” said the ex-employee.

Several homeowners and ex-employees said they contacted the Orange County Sheriff’s office and its economic crimes unit told Action 9 it is investigating their allegations.

The Florida attorney general’s office is reviewing 50 complaints involving Trusted Development. Action 9 looked at those complaints and found homeowners first started raising red flags last year.

A Maitland woman said she paid $62,000 for a garage rebuild that never happened. An Orlando man said he was out $100,000 for a home renovation, and in Winter Garden, a consumer says he paid Trusted Development over $90,000 to start building his dream home.

In total, consumers told the state they lost more than 1 million dollars.

Trusted Development told Todd Ulrich, it’s working to honor all open contracts and resolve all issues, and it has made policy changes to better serve customers.

“I would just like them to stop doing this to people,” Lemons said.

She used a credit card, disputed the charges and they have been removed, for now.

When it comes to home renovations, make a minimal deposit, and use a credit card if possible. And if permits have not been applied for in 30 days, homeowners can dispute the charge and cancel the job.

Trusted Development Group response:

We at Trusted recognize that we have made some mistakes, and, at times, things have moved slowly through some of our departments. We apologize for the frustration and inconvenience this has caused. We are actively working to improve our process where needed to ensure a better customer experience. We take this very seriously and will continue our efforts to take the lessons we have learned and improve our process and customer relations.

While we understand the primary focus of your story, and our effort is not to deflect or take away from each of these customers experience, it is important to understand that we believe that not all customer accounts are portrayed accurately. There are many sides to each story.

With regards to Mrs. Lemons' project, it was unfortunately moving slowly through permitting. She grew frustrated with her experience, and to some extent rightfully so. She lost faith in our ability to understand her project due to the loss of a drafter. As a result, our customer service team reached out to resolve Mrs. Lemons' concern and offered her a discount for the inconvenience, which she accepted. After her sight prep and permit review, she disputed all of the payments we received. To date, she has not paid for the plans or site prep work done on her property. She has also not paid for her permit fees or additional design services including engineering that we provided on her behalf.

We are working diligently to honor all of our open contracts and resolve all outstanding customer issues. We are still open for business and have made procedural and policy changes to better serve our customers.