Contractor Vanishes Without A Trace, But Woman Tracks Him Down And Makes Him Pay. – ‘He played right into my hands.’
by Trisha Leigh
Anyone who has ever needed to use contractor services knows that on the whole, they’re a bit of a flaky bunch.
And as this woman has proved, you have to pretty much be a private detective to track them down yourself.
OP hired a contractor to do some insurance repair plus finish a pole barn on her farm after it was partially destroyed by a storm.
So the story begins with my needing to hire a contractor to repair damage to a pole barn that I was constructing on our property. The structure was partially done when a storm hit and the structure had substantial damage.
So, we bid a few contractors and the guy that seemed to be the best one (who was actually a referral from a friend), we signed a contract and he started work within a week.
We had also signed with him to complete the structure after the insurance portion was completed because his crew could do this much more efficiently and a better job than we could do ourselves (which is what we were originally doing).
They completed the insurance portion but then ghosted, leaving materials out that had been bought and paid for by OP. While they were missing, another storm hit and damaged the repairs.
His crew completes the insurance portion of the job, but then abandons the project just before starting the rest of it. No call, no email, nothing. I called and texted, and not one of my contact points was ever returned.
At this point it was late December, and we thought maybe he and his crew had holiday plans but would resume right after.
Then another windstorm hit and his crew hadn’t braced the partially-completed structure correctly….and it almost collapsed again.
OP tried to find out where he lived so she could contact him about returning to finish the job, but he had apparently moved.
I tried for 2 weeks to find him. I even drove out to the address on the contract we signed. Which ended up being a house on a rural road, next town over. I knocked on the door, seeing his car there. No one answered.
I stopped by this house several different times, trying to catch him. The last few times, his car was no longer there but the work truck of another company was.
Wanting to know if he owned the house, I pulled up the tax records for it in the county it was in. Name on the house was not registered to him. So, sounds like he rented or at least was staying with a friend.
The company info on the truck was registered to someone unrelated and not on the tax records. The tax records showed that the actual taxpayer of the property lived elsewhere.
Here where I live, the property owner name is listed and if they do not actually live at that property (such as in using it for an investment), their address that would have the actual tax bill sent to is also on there.
She even pulled police reports, but still came up empty.
Given that knowledge, I pulled the court records for him to see if maybe he had been recently arrested or if there was any other info. What I found was about 30 years of driving offenses, including a lot of DUI/DWI charges, and other records.
At this point I figured he was long gone and being as I hadn’t paid out any money to him for work that was not complete, I would just move on.
At least until the structural engineer I hired to assess the damage to the work that was done, stated that the structure had to be started over on that part, and the building materials that the contractor had left scattered around the jobsite were also unusable due to being left improperly stored.
I had hoped that the structure could just be pulled back into place and re-secured but I was told this is not the case.
After a structural engineer told her the entire project would have to be redone from the start, and her insurance wouldn’t cover the lost materials, she kicked her investigation into overdrive.
So began the bigger drama and my determination to find him. So far, his negligence has cost $1200 for a structural engineer opinion (our insurance company paid for a 2nd opinion because they didn’t like what ours said), $2500 for insurance deductible to the newest contractor hired to repair the exact damage that happened 3 months prior, and $7,000 in materials that his insurance company refused to cover or pay for, and my insurance policy on the project did not cover either.
The adjuster for his insurance company said that he was able to locate the contractor but refused to give up any information for him directly.
That and the fact that the project wasn’t finished had detriment to my farm and boarding business because two of my pastures that were connected to where the building was sitting, couldn’t be used.
This limited my ability to use natural pasture grass in summer months by rotating pastures for each herd, and had to purchase hay, which gets quite expensive.
OP was set to take some pretty rough losses if she couldn’t find the guy and get the money from him.
By the time the building was completed, and I could get my pastures back to normal, I had losses of over $14,000.
Because I didn’t know where he now lived, I used the only address I had for him to file for small claims court, which here has a limit of $15,000.
The court documents I served came back undeliverable. This meant that I was kind of stuck because a court date cannot be scheduled until all parties are properly served. But how do I find an address for someone who doesn’t seem to register to any particular address directly?
She kept an eye on social media, ready to pounce if he showed up, and eventually found his Facebook page.
Time was still on my side as this was still early-mid last year. So I kept a watch on social media for anything with his name, which was a VERY unique one. If there was another man of the same name within this state, within even the same metro area, it was unlikely because of how unique the name was.
Then one day this past fall, after google searching the name again, there it was: his Facebook page. His name hadn’t shown up before on FB with several searches. Not sure why this was the case. Even better, all his settings were set to public.
I could see everything he wrote about. Including his recent commitment to stay sober earlier in 2017 (just after he abandoned my project), and… his employer’s name! He had posted a pic of him on a jobsite and someone asked where he worked now. He named the place.
So a quick google search and voila! Got an address to serve him court papers to. So I re-filed with the new-found address. But I still needed a home address to enforce the judgement once I won the case.
Instead of messaging him directly, she created an alter-ego single lady he could chat with about his woes – and hopefully his address, eventually.
So what did I do? Seeing that he was listed as ‘single’ in his page, I used a fake FB profile that I originally had in use to test various features I enable on pages that I start up under my real profile. Truthfully, i only used that profile for that purpose to make sure the settings I put in place truly work.
But now it would serve another purpose. Getting this guy to give me all the information I needed, playing on his being middle aged and single.
To create my alter ego, I found a website of a cute blonde lady in her 40’s (so as to not be too young for him, since he was around mid-40’s himself), and just yanked pics. I only set one to the profile photo, and would use the rest if he asked for more.
I changed all the pics in the profile to look like it was a typical page of the average mid-40’s female.
Holy crap did this work… and it worked so well. I used some information I found on his page to strike up a conversation about stuff stolen out of his work truck in the alley behind his house (big clue!) and it was reported to the city police dept (he named the city, so another big clue).
So, using this information, and telling him I had grown up in the same area, I got him to give me a general area where he lived. Keeping conversation cool like “is the pizza joint still there? They’ve been around forever” etc so he wouldn’t get suspicious.
Thank goodness for Google Maps giving me a better idea of that area so I could talk about it like i did in fact grow up there. In reality, I have only ever been in that city twice, and other times drove through on the way to somewhere else.
From there, she played the long game until he posted about his roommate, and that was how she was finally able to locate a physical address.
I was able to narrow down the area he talked about, and using that info, I pulled the police report records from that city. There were 3 reports done within the same area on that same day he reported. So… using that information, I pulled the county tax records to see who owned the houses.
I found 3 houses within that area that could possibly be rentals since the owner name and taxpayer billing address did not match. This could be a long-shot to find the person, but I didn’t have anything to lose by searching. Just as I was about to call the homeowners to see of anyone by the name of the contractor rented from them, he posts some info on his page that made the calls completely unnecessary.
He posted the name of his roommate in a status update, who I then check out the profile of. The profile lists the roommate’s landscaping business. A quick google search of that business name and BINGO… his state business registration address matched 1 of the 3 addresses I suspected to be the rental house.
With that, she was able to get and serve her judgement.
So now I have his home address. He had already been served at his employer’s address for the court date. Fast forward to the court date. He didn’t show up, which I suspected he wouldn’t so I got default judgement.
Between serving him papers and the court date passing, the FB profile I was using to talk to him was helpful in getting info out of him about his life, his job situation, how much he made per hour (me feigning knowledge about what construction trades paid), and the fact that he was looking at changing employers.
He even told me the name of that employer. So I was armed with info, should he decide to not work with me.
He played right into my hands.
Once I got the official judgement from the small claims court win, I decided to contact him myself on FB using messenger.
I sat down and wrote out a whole paragraph to him, first typing it on Word so that I could print it out and edit it, and have my husband read it as well.
Then, though, she gave the story a surprise twist ending.
I wrote that while I was angry at him, I was going to give him ONE chance to work a deal with me, rather than using our state dept of revenue play collection officer for me.
I hate dealing with our state dept of revenue. They make the IRS look like Sunday school teachers.
But…if it came down to that I would, and they would start garnishing his wages, and here they take 25% of each paycheck after taxes, and have the person’s employer do it for them, and then send it to me.
However, I hate letting the state be the middle-man because they just complicate things. But I told him straight out that if he refused to work with me directly, I would go to that extreme.
I told him that I know he’s an addict and has had struggles in the past. I told him that knowing he has had struggles, I was willing to work with him directly and give him an opportunity to offer a monthly payment amount that works for him and his budget, rather than have the state decide the amount for him.
To shorten this up… he replied, agreed, signed (and had notarized) a monthly payment agreement, complete with a list of manual labor tasks that he could use in place of a payment or two to help with some projects on my farm.
Does Reddit love the happy ending? Let’s find out!
The top comment says her compassion makes the story all that much better.
They say tenacious and compassionate is a great combination.
This person wants some more information (the answer was yes).
And this commenter agrees they’re great for giving the guy another chance.
Although really, it’s a win-win for OP.
Also, now she’s got all these great sleuthing skills for next time.
Because we all know there will be a next time.