Contact 6: Troubled contractors and how to protect your money

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MILWAUKEE -- They take money and disappear, for one reason or another. Bad contractors are out there! And FOX6's Contact 6 tracked some of them down during a recent investigation.

Contact 6 did a lot of homework on troubled contractors in southeast Wisconsin -- looking at reports from the Better Business Bureau, the State Department of Consumer Protection and court cases.

Six contractors stood out, with multiple problems.

One such contractor is Vance Allen and his Milwaukee-based business called VA Home Improvements. Contact 6 staked out his house on South 20th Street.

Allen has an F-rating with the BBB, four complaints with Consumer Protection for not properly starting or finishing jobs, plus multiple judgments against him in the courts -- totaling nearly $94,000 dollars.

Allen spoke with Contact 6 via phone, and said: “I had a gambling problem. I go to Gamblers Anonymous and all that quite a bit now." He agreed to talk on camera, but then didn’t show.

Robert Cechini runs Amazing Exteriors in Illinois. The Attorney General there has a civil lawsuit against him and the business right now for "consumer fraud and deceptive business practices."

Plus he's been charged in Wisconsin with theft-by-contractor! Add in 21-complaints with the BBB and an F-rating and the BBB isn't happy Amazing Exteriors is still using its seal!

"Chimneys and Gutters 'R Us" in Racine is another F-rated company and the BBB links it to 13 different names. The state has four complaints plus an open charge of theft-by-contractor against employee Timothy Ratcliff.

The owner of the company told Contact 6 he's "straightening everything out" - but refused to talk on camera.

Willie Pritchard runs JDM Development LLC. and has complaints with Contact 6, the Better Business Bureau, Consumer Protection and owes people $9,000 in judgments against him.

He didn't return phone calls and his last known address was boarded up.

Brian Pawlak is also tough to find, having closed “Insured Roofing and Remodeling” after three Consumer Protection complaints and several judgments against him, including one for $60,000!

Finally, there's Jim Schiller Junior. Schiller actually agreed to sit down with Contact 6 to talk about his recent failed career as a contractor. His company - Liberty Craft Home Improvement - has an F-rating with the Better Business Bureau.

"I didn't really look into what the F-rating was, or anything, until I was contacted by you," Schiller said.

Schiller also has two complaints with Consumer Protection for not finishing jobs and owes former customers close to $125,000!

"There are people that I genuinely feel very guilty about the position that I put them in, and when the time comes and I'm financially able to make those people whole again, I will," Schiller said.

Want to improve your chances at getting a good contractor? Do your homework!

  • First, find out if the contractor is licensed with the state by simply checking the state's website.
  • Then run the owner’s name and the business name through Wisconsin's online Circuit Court records to see if there are judgments against them.
  • Be sure to check their report with the BBB.
  • It's also a good idea to see if they are a member of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry - or NARI. NARI contractors must meet certain standards and if a problem comes up they have to go through a grievance procedure.

3 comments

  • Mike Saulson

    Jim Schiller has an A rating with the BBB. The opinion that he is a failed contractor is a biased opinion by the media and a misleading opinion only.

  • RJP

    Timothy Ratcliff and his son Jonathan Caswell are thieves, and they change the names of their “businesses” the way most people change socks. Their issues have not been “straightened out.” They also tend to hire other criminals (including a pedophile, Mike Osborne, currently doing time in Kentucky.)

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