Customers grill contractor under oath at bankruptcy hearing after paying him $400k
10:47 PM, Apr 19, 2018
LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. — "I'd like to know what you did with my money," Jennifer Turner said.
That's the question she and at least 19 other families have for their former contractor, Mike Ross.
"Most of it was, 'I don't know, I don't know," another customer, Tony Martin said.
Martin, Tony, and more than a dozen other frustrated people packed the downtown federal courthouse on Thursday for Ross's bankruptcy hearing.
To have so many creditors in one room for what is normally a mundane docket of bankruptcy hearings is unusual. So unusual that the bankruptcy trustee, Jerald Enslein, had to continue Ross's hearing to May 3 because so many people showed up.
Ross owes money to 87 companies and people, according to his bankruptcy filing, including his customers.
At least 19 families collectively paid Building Pro nearly $400,000 for remodeling jobs, but the projects were either never started or completed.
"Most people don't have any material, don't have anything done, or work that was done was wrong," Gordon Gorajewski said.
The Gorajewskis maintain Building Pro never paid for the materials that were used for their new kitchen, according to the countertop and cabinet companies. Gorajewski says they now have a mechanical lien.
Martin paid around $18,000 to the company for an ADA compliant bathroom, which he says was done incorrectly. Turner paid $25,000.
At the hearing, they grilled Ross under oath about where the money went, and when he knew his company was going to crumble.
"Didn't answer any questions," Gorajewski said.
At the hearing, Ross continued to side-step the question about where exactly the money is but said some of it was spent on materials. Some of those materials are still in a storage unit, but Ross's attorney promised to the customers they could come pick it up themselves.
Many are skeptical.
Ross claims he tried to sell the company in early January, but the buyer backed out, leaving everything up in the air.
One of the creditors listed in Ross's bankruptcy filing is the man who backed out of the Building Pro sale.
"Most of the projects [Mike Ross] left, he left in the middle of December or November, yet he continued to take projects and money clear into January," Turner said.
It was revealed that Ross has filed for bankruptcy in the past. Before the company fell apart, he took out a loan for more than $130,000. Ross says he did that to pay back some of his debts.
The same customers also made out checks directly to Karin Ross, Building Pro's former designer and Mike Ross's sister-in-law. They estimate they paid her $25,000 for design and consulting work.
"I did question Karin as to why we were making it out to her, and she told me it was for tax purposes, Building Pro liked to make it out that way," Turner said.
Turner says she paid Karin Ross almost $2,700 for design work on her kitchen, but says Building Pro's crew never showed for the job on January 8.
In Turner's sales commission agreement, Karin Ross is listed as the 'Sales Team', and it clearly says that she will assist the customer during the length of the work until final payment is received and the project is completed. It says the fee is nonrefundable, which Turner disputes.
"None of that was done. So, unfortunately, I feel very much that Karin Ross herself, who was definitely a large part of Building Pro, owes me at least a partial refund for the commission fees," Turner says.
Then there was an incident with Turner's cabinets. It started when Turner says Karin Ross texted her on January 7, the day before work was to begin on her project, saying she'd been let go from Building Pro and there was a new owner.
Then in March, Turner says she received a call from Karin Ross on a Sunday morning, urging Turner to come get her cabinets which were at the Building Pro warehouse.
"Legally, if she was no longer an employee, I don't know how she'd have keys to the building. I don't know how she had authorization to contact me about these cabinets," Turner said.
Turner showed 41 Action News the email from American Woodmark Cabinet Company showing Building Pro never paid for the cabinets.
Karin Ross's attorney says after Building Pro fell apart, she tried to help Turner but Turner refused.
"I feel that Karin and Mike Ross are accountable to a whole lot of people," Tuner counters.
Many customers tell 41 Action News they only had interactions with Karin Ross, never Mike.
Karin Ross signed off on the majority of the customers' contracts and was their point-of-contact.
Karin Ross's attorney, Matt O'Connor, says she was just an agent for the company, and not the owner.
Despite the mess, the families just want their money back.
Some paid partially with credit cards, so they can handle it with the credit card company.
One customer took Building Pro to small claims court and the judge recently ruled in her favor, ordering Building Pro to pay her back.
The Missouri Attorney General and Johnson County District Attorney's offices are investigating.
"It's very frightening to realize someone could just walk away like that and take no responsibility for what they've done," Turner said.