BBB warning consumers about Kennewick contractor after scam investigation
[UPDATE: Nov. 30 at 9 p.m.]
RELATED STORY: Former contractor speaks out after BBB investigation alleges scam
[UPDATE: Nov. 29 at 10 a.m.]
Andrew Pope contacted Action News disputing the claims against him.
He claims it was Gabriel Ramos who took advantage of him.
Pope also claims he was unaware of some of the lawsuits pending against him.
We've directed him to the Better Business Bureau so they can continue their investigation.
[END OF UPDATE]
KENNEWICK, Wash. - The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning about a Kennewick construction company they say scammed over $213,000.
Investigators with the bureau uncovered a number of complaints against Pope's Construction, now called Pope's Drywall and Finish Work, based out of Kennewick.
Customers claim Pope required a large sum of money up front, but the work never gets finished.
Homeowner Jana Strickland says she and Andy Pope had an agreement.
She needed work on a wooden fence and backyard patio, he agreed to do it but wanted her to pay for half of the bid up front.
This was in May, but after starting the job, she claims Pope disappeared.
"None of the projects in the contract are done," she said.
Strickland's husband and son tried to make the unfinished deck safe for her dogs and grandchildren but she says she still doesn't trust it.
She showed Action News portions of the wooden deck that wiggled, or were un-secured, warped and improperly measured.
"They're scammers," she said. "This is money from my mother that passed away and now I have nothing to show for it. I don't know how I'm going to get this stuff re-done."
Danielle Kane with the Better Business Bureau her team frequently hears about fly-by-night contractors, offering certain services for really cheap.
"You pay them like 50-percent up front and they never show up," Kane said.
The consumer advocate says Strickland isn't Pope's only unhappy customer.
Her team has found at least 3 other complaints filed against Pope or his miscellaneous companies.
Action News repeatedly tried to contact Andy Pope but he didn't respond to any of our requests.
The bureau is raising the alarm now, before closing the investigation, because they're hoping more victims will come forward.
Until then she says they're trying to figure out how everything fits together with what they already know.
"[New information] will help us fill in the blanks as to whats going on here," Kane said. "It's easier to get scammed than you think, and in these cases victims have lost a substantial amount of money. Despite their allegations, the money is lost."
So far BBB investigators can verify a number of complaints against Pope, including a couple lawsuits.
Some of Pope's customers allege his employee Gabriel Ramos was the one to blame.
Action News can confirm he took payment, and that the customers were unsatisfied with the work.
We're still working to verify facts with Washington Labor and Industry services.
Ramos claims he's also a victim, not the ring-leader.
He says he agreed to forward new clients to Pope, as well as occasionally working as a laborer for an hourly-rate.
But when Pope took Jana's money and disappeared without compensating his crew he was caught in the crossfire.
"I feel terrible for Jana [Strickland]," he said. "She just wants her money back and I'm the only one willing to respond to her messages."
Ramos says he tried to make it right even thought it wasn't his company, but he isn't a contractor and says he can't keep up.
"I left my family broke for almost a month and a half," he said. "I spent almost $3,000 trying to keep someone happy and I didn't profit a penny."
Ramos says he's aware of the complaints against him through Washington Labor and Industry services.
He says he appealed the claims last month and is waiting to hear back from his case worker.
Meanwhile, Strickland said she's left with a fence that barely contains her dogs.
She tells Action News she's having a hard time trusting anyone now, and feels personally wronged by Ramos and Pope.
At this point she says she just wants things to get back to normal.
"I know I won't see my money," she said sadly. "The money is gone."
Kane told Action News the BBB wants folks to learn from Strickland's misfortune.
Watch for red flags
- Being asked to pay large amounts of money up front
- Limited or hard-to-reach references
- Limited or difficult communication with the business
- Look up the business on ScamTracker
If you're a victim of fraud