KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Customers jilted by Mike Ross, who owned the now defunct Lee's Summit contracting and remodeling company Building Pro, are eager for justice and happy to see criminal charges filed by the Missouri Attorney General's Office.
"I can't tell you how glad I am to hear that our activism and our pursuit and the fact that this group of people worked together," said Jennifer Turner, who paid Building Pro for a kitchen remodel that was never done.
It's been two years since nearly two dozen customers came forward, many of whom spoke exclusively with 41 Action News, about alleged problems with Building Pro and Ross, who is accused of diverting money from the company for personal use.
According to the charges filed by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt's office, Ross took money from customers but often never started, much less finished, the work.
Debra Hausler wanted the bathroom of her dreams. She never got it.
"We were on the lower end and there were a lot of people who lost a lot more," Hausler said.
She put down about $3,000 toward a master shower renovation in December 2017 and actually won s $2945 judgment in small claims court a year later.
But the victory is hollow, because the Hauslers said they haven't received a penny from Ross.
He subsequently filed for bankruptcy. The case worked its way through federal court for a year before a judge dismissed the proceeding last winter.
Schmitt's office filed six counts of unlawful merchandising practices and two counts of financially exploiting an elderly person, including Hausler, in the criminal complaint filed Monday in Jackson County.
"These are criminal allegations, so it's a little bit different and not as common as the civil cases that are often filed by our office," Schmitt said. "But again, it goes to the seriousness of the allegations."
Schmitt said contractor disputes usually are settled in mediation before any civil charges are filed, but with Ross' case the number of people who came forward and the amount of supporting documentation prompted his office to file criminal charges.
"It certainly would indicate a pattern of practice, which can be particularly damaging in this instance, even involving, as we are alleging, exploitation of the elderly in the promises that were made and not delivered upon," Schmitt said.
41 Action News reached out to the Ross family, who did not want to provide a statement. Ross's bankruptcy attorney in Michigan did not reply to a request for comment.
Turner hopes the charges filed against Ross will encourage others consumers to come forward if they ever feel they were scammed or a company acted in bad faith.
"You don't often see that in these situations where somebody actually gets stopped from harming more people," Turner said.
A court date has not been set for Ross.
The Johnson County District Attorney's office launched an investigation into Ross, but last summer it settled the civil case.
Ross agreed to a consent judgment to avoid litigation. He agreed to never act as a contractor or operate Building Pro in Johnson County again.
DA Steve Howe's office alleged that Ross took money from six customers from Sept. to Dec. 2017 but did not perform the agreed-upon contracting work. Court records say the six customers received refunds, but it's not clear how much.
Ross told the court he had voluntarily paid back $55,000 to former customers prior to the consent judgment.
Ross, however, can still act as a subcontractor and engage in real estate transactions in Johnson County.