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Local couples issues warning about giving contractors up-front money

Local couples issue warning about giving contractors up-front money
Posted at 10:00 PM, Oct 14, 2021

STRONGSVILLE, Ohio — Aleksandra and David Sems of Strongsville issued a warning when it comes to booking a contractor for a fall home improvement project, and paying out up-front money for the job.

The couple is urging everyone to limit down-payments for jobs and do their homework on contractors before handing out any money.

The couple explained they paid $3,000 in cash to Complete Construction and company owner Donald J. Adams back in early July for a $6,000 concrete patio job and now more than three months later, the work hasn't been started and they have yet to receive a refund.

“It's added a lot of unnecessary stress to our life," David Sems said. “It’s just been excuse after excuse, after excuse constantly. And we were so nice to him, we even recommended him to our best friends.”

“He does not even repent, he doesn’t have any sort of remorse, nothing," Aleksandra Sems said. "He just says 'oh why do you call me a liar.' He can still fix things, but he should be honest about things.”

Local couples issue warning about giving contractors up-front money
Tom Espenschied of Hinckley Township is still waiting for a refund on a project he booked in June

Tom Espenschied of Hinckley told News 5 he's had a similar experience with Complete Construction, paying $1,500 by check to the Strongsville company for a $3,000 septic system drain line project back in June.

Espenschied said he had been waiting more than four months for Adams to start the job or give him his money back.

“He brought a handwritten contract and spelled out the details," Espenschied said. “At that point, he cut off all communication and he just disappeared, that was the last I heard from him.”

According to Summit and Cuyahoga County court records Adams has two ongoing felony theft cases against him, alleging he took up-front money from consumers and did little or no work. In the Summit County case, court records indicate Adams failed to appear in court and a capias warrant was issued for his arrest.

In 2018, Cuyahoga County Court records indicate Adams pleaded guilty to felony theft charges connected to consumers in Lakewood and Orange Village and was sentenced to jail time as a repeat offender.

News 5 reached out to Donald Adams for this story, and he responded immediately. Adams refused an on-camera interview, but told News 5 the consumers in the cases we brought to his attention are simply over-reacting.

Adams said he explained to his customers he's been going through a series of medical issues, and warned them there would be extended delays in the jobs he has booked with them.

He assured News 5 all customers would have their jobs completed or be issued full refunds as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Better Business Bureau has issued Complete Construction an "F" rating because of three unanswered consumer complaints against the company.

Local couples issue warning about giving contractors up-front money
Ericka Dilworth, Cleveland BBB Director of Operations, issued a warning about giving contractors too much up-front money

Ericka Dilworth, Cleveland BBB Director of Operations, told News 5 pandemic-related worker and supply chain issues have made it harder for consumers to find viable contractors. Dilworth said homeowners should never give 50% in up-front money for a job, that the down-payment should be no more than a third of the total cost for the project.

Dilworth urged consumers to do background checks on contractors, and pay with a credit card that has fraud protection whenever possible.

“These people made a decision because they were having a hard time finding a contractor, Dilworth said. "You have to really be careful.”

“If a company claims to be registered in a city, call that city, don’t just take their word. If they claim that a permit has been pulled, verify that a permit has been pulled. Ask for references. If a contractor is looking for cash, if the contractor is looking for a check, or half down up-front, be leery.”

News 5 will follow up on this story and let you know if Adams follows through on the uncompleted jobs.

Still, Tom Espenschied told News 5 he wonders if he'll ever get his $1,500 back.

“Nobody wants to be on the evening News saying hey I was the guy that gave him money," Espenscheid said. "But if this is how we get him off the street then so be it.”