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Missouri AG targets ‘crooked contractors’ during National Consumer Protection Week

Posted at 12:51 PM, Mar 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-03 13:51:53-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt is targeting shady contractors as part of National Consumer Protection Week.

That push includes eight criminal charges filed Monday against Michael Ross, 49, of Kansas City, Missouri, and three charges against a St. Joseph-based contractor in Buchanan County.

Ross — through his Lee’s Summit-based remodeling outfit, Building Pro — allegedly used customer payments for personal use, according to court records. He was charged with six counts of unlawful merchandising practices and two counts of financial exploitation of an elderly person in Jackson County Circuit Court.

“The charges in Jackson County allege that Ross falsely promised homeowners that he and his company could complete home remodel and renovation services in exchange for partial upfront payments,” Schmitt’s office said in a statement announcing a series of charges statewide. “Once paid, Ross failed to provide work or materials as promised. On two occasions, the victims of this fraud were elderly.”

Ross is familiar to 41 Action News Investigators, who have reported on his company’s alleged deceptive practices in the past.

Nearly two dozen homeowners have come forward, claiming Ross and Building Pro took approximately $400,000 in payments for work that was never performed.

Some of Ross’ jilted clients reside in Kansas, but it’s unclear if he’ll face charges for similar alleged crimes committed in Johnson County.

“Making repairs and renovations on your home can be a stressful, busy time, and selecting a reputable contractor is one of the most important steps in that process,” Schmitt said in a statement. “Unfortunately, fraudulent contractors and home repair scammers can take advantage of this stress and use high pressure tactics to get you to pay them, all while completing little to no work. Be careful and deliberate when selecting a contractor. If you do fall victim to these fraudulent contractors, we’re here to help and will take action wherever possible.”

Schmitt’s office also announced charges against Brian S. Pummel in Buchanan County, Missouri.

Pummel, of Forsyth, Missouri, is charged with three counts of deceptive business practice, a Class E felony, in connection with work paid for and not performed by St. Joseph-based Houston’s Construction.

Schmitt also filed two civil lawsuits against a landscaper and a roofer in the St. Louis area.

Missouri residents and consumers who believe they have been scammed, by a crooked contractor or any other deceptive business practice, should call the state Attorney General Office’s Consumer Protection Division hotline at 800-392-8222 or file a consumer complaint on the AG Office’s website.

Kansas residents and consumers can file a complaint online with the Kansas Attorney General’s Office.

Before entering into an agreement with any contractor, the Better Business Bureau recommends checking out the company on the BBB database among other tips, which include:

  • Ask for references and follow up with past clients about their satisfaction;
  • Check contractor’s professional credentials, including professional organization membership;
  • Get quotes from at least three contractors for the work to be performed;
  • Get everything in writing, especially the contract with a timeline, pricing and warranty information;
  • Verify the contractor has a license and insurance;
  • If needed, confirmed the contractor secured a building permit;
  • Get a receipt marked “paid in full” after the final payment is processed;
  • Sign a lien waiver to ensure you won’t be financially responsible if the contractor defaults on payment for materials;
  • Never pay the full amount up font and use a credit card when possible to provide additional protection against fraud.