GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - A day after Target 8 told you about a Grand Rapids single mother who said a roofer took her money and left a mess, we showed our interview and video to an expert to find out how everyone can avoid this kind of trouble.
Amanda Cornell recently bought a house on Nevada Street SE in Alger Heights, but now she's out $5,000. Cornell said when she realized she needed a new roof, she hired Ray Fuentes, who said he was licensed and insured. Target 8 investigators checked Fuentes' record and found he did prison time for contractor fraud. Local court records in Muskegon say he kept money for a roofing job he didn't do. And there is no evidence that he is licensed as a builder or insured, as he reportedly told Cornell.
Cornell showed Target 8 problems with the roof including missing shingles, leaks, black tar marks on her siding, and the back of her garage is covered by a tarp because Fuentes tore off all the gutters off, causing water to pour into the garage when it rains.
"He was just ripping gutters down and he's like, 'These are old gutters. I'm going to take care of you. You're a single mom. I'm going to get some new gutters up there,'" she said.
She says she paid Fuentes half up front and he demanded the rest of the money the day he finished the job, even though there were no new gutters and some family friends in the roofing business told her to not pay him the rest.
"Him and two buddies came over and said it was the worst roof job they'd ever seen in their entire life," she said. "They're like, 'You gotta replace the whole thing.'"
But when she tried to talk to Fuentes, she says things got nasty.
"When I got home, the roof guy, he's in my driveway. He's got probably about six family members. They're all very like pumped up and aggressive," she said. "I was getting scared. I made the kids go inside."
She ended up paying Fuentes the whole $5,100 after an hour-long argument in her driveway.
Phil Catlett of the Better Business Bureau of West Michigan says Cornell's story isn't new or uncommon.
"She represents a significant number of callers we get. The way society is now there is a lot of single parents out there that for the first time in their life, they're responsible for maintaining a home and they're trying to do the best they can in territory they're not very familiar with," Catlett said.
Target 8 showed the video to Catlett Friday. He says this case could have turned out differently with a call to the Better Business Bureau. "She could have found out on line or by phone call that this roofer was not licensed and she would have known she needed to be suspicious and get more detail. She could easily have said 'Well, give me the name and number of a couple of your references for those houses you just showed me' and that might have also turned things around for her," Catlett said.
Cornell said that the roofer showed her what he claimed were other jobs he had done but she later found out they were not.
Target 8 tracked down Fuentes to get his side of the story. When Target 8 got to his residence, Fuentes' soon-to-be ex-wife Kim talked about him. Moments later, Fuentes got into his car to drive away.
"You're going down, Ray," Kim told Fuentes when Target 8 investigators showed up. "You're a scam artist."
Fuentes himself refused to speak to Target 8.
Catlett said the best thing consumers can do when they're getting ready to find a contractor for any job, home owners should always get bids from at least three different contractors. "You learn a lot, you save money and it just gives you added expert opinion about the project you're trying to do," Catlett said.
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Joshua Hoppe, 30, from Zeeland was a teacher with Hamilton Community Schools.
Nobody was injured and no personal belongings were stolen.