BELTON, Mo. -- It isn’t easy getting answers from a contractor that left a house looking as bad as Russ Nicholson’s Belton home.
“Those were steps,” said the 84-year-old Mr. Nicholson, pointing to a pile of gravel and dirt.
Mr. Nicholson can no longer use his front door because his now missing contractor tore out the bottom steps of his stairwell and the retaining wall holding his porch and yard in place.
“I said I either want my money or I want it fixed,” Mr. Nicholson said. “I ain’t got neither one.”
Mr. Nicholson hired Royal Restorations in December to fix some cracks in his basement walls, redo his driveway and repair his now missing retaining wall. Mr. Nicholson, a retired autoworker and dedicated church goer, thought the men who showed up on his doorstep seemed like good Christians.
“So I thought they were safe to do it,” he said.
After first collecting $8,500 of a $10,000 contract, the men did fix some cracks inside the basement, but the outside? That looks worse than before they started.
After demanding another $1,000 to tear out his old retaining wall, the men disappeared. Neither Nicholson nor his daughter Lisa Plough have seen them since March, even though she’s left numerous text messages demanding they finish the job and finally a voicemail asking for her father’s money back.
“They are just con artists; that's all they are,” Nicholson said. “All they do is want your money.”
If only Mr. Nicholson had known the truth about the two men running Royal Restorations, William Bailey and Jeramie Furnas. Bailey is on probation after serving prison time for defrauding an elderly person of $18,000.
And Jeramie Furnas, who is listed as company owner, served more than three years in prison for cheating a 76-year-old woman from Joplin out of $16,000.
We couldn’t find Bailey to talk to him. His phone number is no longer working and he has no listed address. When we tried to visit Furnas at his Lee’s Summit home, someone slammed the front door shut as we approached it.
No worries. FOX 4 Problem Solvers found Furnas a few weeks later at the Clay County Courthouse where he was facing a felony charge for writing a bad check to an asphalt supply company.
So what did Furnas have to say about the troubling condition of Nicholson’s home? He said he was surprised to hear the job had never been finished.
“They texted me and told me not to worry about it; they had someone to do it,” Furnas told us. “I can show you the text messages.”
We asked to see them, but Furnas said they were on a phone he didn’t have with him.
Jeramie Furnas need not worry about finding those messages because Nicholson’s daughter has saved every one, including this one.
“I never scammed anybody,” Furnas wrote in a text. “Are you saying I scammed your dad. I'll do my best to have it done by April 1st.”
Another unkept promise.
FOX 4 Problem Solvers asked Furnas if he would give Nicholson’s money back. But Furnas said he spent nearly all $9,500 on materials and labor.
But a remodeling expert told FOX 4 Problem Solvers that can’t possibly be true. He estimated what little work had been done amounted to no more than $3,000. Furnas promised to show us receipts to prove his side. Once again, an unkept promise.
That’s just another reason why Jeramie Furnas and William Bailey are the latest members of the FOX 4 Problem Solvers Hall of Shame.
Update: FOX 4 Problem Solvers reported Furnas and Bailey to the Belton Police Department, which is now investigating.
There’s more good news: Dylan Malone, the owner of Next Level Lawn and Landscape, has agreed to repair the outside of Nicholson’s home for free.
By the way, please don’t confuse Royal Restorations with another local company called Royal Restoration. Royal Restoration has a solid reputation as a bathroom and counter refinishing company and has no affiliation with Bailey or Furnas.