KEARNEY, Mo. — Dave Stephenson looked at the empty field behind his home and shook his head.
There should have been a barn built on the property, but the man he paid a $4,100 deposit to in February has never done any work.
“At this point, it seems like he’s trying to avoid my calls,” said Stephenson who contacted FOX4 Problem Solvers for help in April. “It’s a scam.”
Stephenson said he’s one of more than a dozen victims of the same scam, including Carla and David Heckert. They paid the same company $26,000 to build a barn on their Smithville property that could also function as a home.
Work was supposed to start in August, but the Heckerts told Problem Solvers they barely saw a soul until January. That’s when a few men, mostly teenagers, appeared.
“They would just come with a few 2-by-4s in the back of their pickup truck,” said David Heckert, a retired carpenter. “They’d get here at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, drop their stuff off, and then tell us they’re going to go get something to eat. Then they show back up and about 4 o’clock, work for about an hour, roll their stuff back up and leave.”
Carla Heckert said the exact same scenario happened dozens of times, resulting in almost no work being done.
“I’ve gone through cancer and lots of hardships, but I’m telling you this has been the worst experience of my life,” she said.
The barn was mostly framed when FOX4 paid a visit in April, but Heckert had done a lot of the work himself.
He said the work performed by those young men was so bad, it had to be redone – multiple times. He pointed out one piece of wood framing that had 20 holes in it. He said it was one of a multitude of boards that will have to be replaced.
The Heckerts have demanded their money back. They said the company owner kept promising them he would cut a deal, but then never shows up. The owner is Jerry Shane Fellers. His company is Build Tech Structures in Bolivar.
Problem Solvers paid a visit to the company’s headquarters, but the door was locked and there was a “No trespassing” sign posted.
The owner of a neighboring business said neither Fellers nor any of his employees had been there in at least two months, but she said she’s met plenty of his irate customers.
“They show up saying they’ve lost $10,000, $20,000, and they can’t get in contact,” Ashley Albright said. “They’ve been calling. It’s just a really sad situation.”
Problem Solvers received a tip that Fellers might be operating out of home in Greene County, near Springfield. We paid a visit, but the woman who answered the door said she hadn’t seen him in two months. She suggested we contact his probation officer for his current address.
That’s right – his probation officer.
Fellers is definitely no Boy Scout. According to court records, he was sentenced just last year in Oklahoma to 15 years behind bars for scamming multiple customers and suppliers. But he never served a day of prison time because he paid back all $40,000 he was convicted of stealing.
His Missouri customers believe he got that money from scamming them. Fellers has been scamming people for nearly 20 years. In 2003, the Kansas Attorney General banned him from working in construction in that state for seven years.
FOX4 tried contacting Fellers by phone, but he never returned our calls. It’s not just Problem Solvers that’s on Fellers’ trail. So is the Missouri Attorney General’s office.
Fellers’ victims want their money back. But they know that might never happen, which is why they want to warn others not to do business with Jerry Shane Fellers. He’s believed to still be operating in Missouri and is now an official member of the FOX4 Problem Solvers Hall of Shame.