IONIA, Mich. (WOOD) — It was the picture his alleged victims had been waiting to see: Dennis Upton, cuffed and in custody.
Upton, 24, appeared in Eaton County Circuit Court Friday morning in jail blues. The unlicensed builder will remain in jail for at least four months after pleading guilty to operating under the influence, driving while license suspended and fleeing and eluding.
Deputies with the Eaton County Sheriff’s Department arrested him on the outstanding OUIL warrant after coming across him during a traffic stop the weekend of June 10. He also had an outstanding warrant for operating without a builder’s license in the case of Randy and Denise Shattuck, an Ionia couple who were in need of a new roof.
Target 8 first exposed Upton’s Quality Construction in early April after the Shattucks called 24 Hour News 8 to get the word out about Upton’s less than quality work on their roof.
The Shattucks paid Upton $9,000 to rebuild their roof, but ended up with a shoddy shingle job and trash-strewn lawn. The roof, which had to be ripped out and redone, was ultimately built by a group of exceptionally charitable — and licensed — contractors.
But the Shattucks are far from the only ones going after Dennis Upton, who’s based in Potterville southwest of Lansing.
Among the new criminal charges against Upton is one count of false pretenses $1,000 or more but less than $20,000, which is a five-year felony. That charge involves a fence that Upton was hired to build at a home in Eaton County’s Delta Township.
There’s also an open fraud investigation involving a deck Upton was paid to build near Eaton Rapids.
In that case, Upton was allegedly marketing himself under a different company name, not Upton’s Quality Construction.
The homeowner didn’t find Target 8’s stories on Upton until he allegedly disappeared after being paid $3,500 up front for the deck.
Separately, Upton is facing a misdemeanor charge for failing to return 11 books to the public library in Eaton County’s Delta Township, west of Lansing.
Eaton County prosecutors say Upton checked out the following books in June, 2016, but has never returned them:
- Ortho’s All About Roofing & Siding Basics
- Ultimate Guide to Ceramic & Stone Tile: Select, Install, Maintain
- 1001 Ideas for Decks
- The Complete Guide to Carpentry for Homeowners
- Jim Cramer’s Real Money: Sane Investing in an Insane World
- The Complete Guide to Masonry & Stonework
- Working with Drywall: Hanging & Finishing Drywall the Professional Way
- Ultimate Guide: Decks: Plan, Design, Build
- Japanese Complete Course: The Basics
- Ortho’s All About Deck and Patio Upgrades
Upton, whose dad once owned a fencing company in Potterville, is in the Eaton County Jail without bond, pending a July 27th sentencing on the OUIL charge, which will mark his second drunk driving conviction.
Here are some tips on hiring a contractor from the Better Business Bureau of Western Michigan:
- Check with BBB
- Check with friends, neighbors, or co-workers who’ve used a contractor
- Look at online sites you trust that post ratings and reviews
- Find out how long they’ve been in business
- Verify contractor’s license with LARA — https://www.lara.michigan.gov/colaLicVerify/
- Ask for a copy of company’s insurance — contractor should have personal liability, worker’s compensation and property damage coverage.
- Get several estimates
- Ask if your project will require a permit, and if so, who is responsible for obtaining the permit?
- Ask for references, and check them! Ask if the client was satisfied, if the job was completed on time, did the worker’s clean up when done?
- Ask if subcontractor will be used; if so, make sure the subcontractors have current insurance coverage and licenses, too, if required.
- Get a written contract. Contract should include:
- Company name, address, phone number and license number
- Estimated start and completion date
- Contractor’s obligation to obtain permit
- How change orders will be handled
- Warranty information
- Cancellation information
- Be sure to have any verbal promises or assurances added to the contract