Liberty couple left with deck dilemma after contractor takes thousands, doesn’t finish job

LIBERTY, Mo. -- Anthony Pizzulo is spending his weekends building a deck on the back of his Liberty home. It’s not how he had hoped to spend his free time, but he said he has no choice.

“It's an eyesore,” said Pizzulo, referring to the partially built deck that a contractor he hired started and then abandoned.

Pizzulo and his wife Staci hired Swingin V Fence in July to build the two-story deck. They paid company owner Vern Porter $4,000 upfront – about half the total cost – as a deposit. Porter was supposed to start work on August 14, tearing out the Pizzulos’ old deck and begin building the new one.

But on August 14 the Pizzulos received a text message from Porter telling them Porter’s “wife and kids were in an accident.” Porter promised to start working the very next day. But the next day, there was another text from Porter saying he needed to take his wife to the doctor. He asked to “reschedule for next week.”

The Pizzulos had started to grow concerned, but on August 21, Porter and an employee showed up and began tearing out the old deck.

“I guess they showed up for a couple of hours, watched the solar eclipse and left,” Staci Pizzulo said.

The next day, Porter returned and took down most of the old deck. By the 25th, the posts were installed and a portion of the frame for the upper deck. On August 28, Porter removed a concrete block adjacent to the deck per the contract.

“That was the last time we saw him,” Staci Pizzulo said. “We emailed him, texted him, called him. He wasn't answering his phone. His messages were full.”

Her husband tried calling Porter from a different number. That’s when Vern Porter picked up the phone.

“Vern said he couldn't give us a refund because he spent the money on other projects, but he's willing to work on the deck if we buy the parts and he'll deduct that from how much we owe him,” Staci Pizzulo said.

The Pizzulos were tired of Porter’s excuses and demanded their money back. They said Porter ignored their demand so they contacted FOX 4 Problem Solvers.

Problem Solvers discovered the Better Business Bureau also got a complaint about the company this month from another couple who said they paid Porter more than $1,000 for a fence, but never got one.

Problem Solvers repeatedly tried contacting Porter, and received a Facebook post from his wife who claimed the people complaining about her husband can’t be trusted and that her offered has offered refunds, but was turned down. The Pizzulos said that’s not true.

In fact the day after we interviewed the Pizzulos they received an invoice from Porter which purports to show that he spent their entire deposit on materials and labor. But the Pizzulos say many of the materials listed on the invoice never made to their home. They also believe Porter wildly exaggerated the number of hours he worked on the project.

Mr. Porter did get a hold of FOX 4 News on Tuesday afternoon. He insisted that he treated the Pizzulos fairly, and could've completed the deck with their cooperation. He adds that he's now in the process of closing his business.