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Pond Builder Scammed Me
#526799 10/15/20 04:59 PM
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I've mentioned a few of the details in the "What did you do at your pond today?" thread, but some new evidence has just come forward, and I have concluded that I have been scammed out of $8500. Here's my pond builder: http://www.co.stokes.nc.us/sheriff/files/nbaxter.pdf

Yep, a warrant out for his arrest, for taking money from a victim with prior knowledge that he would not be completing the job. On top of that, this guy has 7 felonies and 3 misdemeanors dating back to 2006, where he stole a $50,000 backhoe. Also has numerous drug charges, failure to appear charges, possession of a firearm by a felon, and many "obtaining property by false pretenses" charges. My last contact with him was Tuesday, in which he said he would be out today (Thursday) but never showed up. Phone is off, all calls go straight to voicemail, and he hasn't answered my texts all day.

To make matters worse, he has taken several loads of timber to the lumbermill for me. Well, that's what he was supposed to do. I called them and they said they have never heard of him, nor me. So, he apparently took the money from that as well, or just kept the trees for himself, who knows.

I have filed a police report, and need to go to the magistrate's office to press formal charges tomorrow. I'm saddened, angry, and heartbroken that my dream of owning a pond has come to a halt. I'm upset that I let him get the best of me, and fell for his scheme. I'm upset that he has also claimed victims before me. Lastly, I'm saddened that the justice system has failed this man, and let him continually wreak havoc on the general public. It makes you wonder how a known crook can just keep playing his game, go through the motions, take people's money, and just be free to do it over and over. Sorry for the off topic rant, but that needed to be said.

For the record, I'm not a rich person. I borrowed most of this money from my 401k and the rest from a personal loan. I don't have the funds to just go hire another pond builder to finish the job.

Lessons to be learned:

  • If it's too good to be true, it probably is
  • Don't pay for more than the work that has been done
  • Don't let someone's good intentions get the best of you
  • Always assume that they don't have your best interest in mind
  • Get every detail in writing, and remember that texts and emails are better than phone calls in court
  • Get an estimated completion date in writing
  • Find out how big their crew is, what kind of machinery they will be using, and how many hours per day they plan on working
  • Ask about how the weather will affect their work

Re: Pond Builder Scammed Me
Steve_ #526800 10/15/20 05:45 PM
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Aww man that is terrible news. Has he left any equipment? If so chain it to something and throw a lean on it.. lots won’t want anything up front..... Dangit that hurts

Re: Pond Builder Scammed Me
Pat Williamson #526801 10/15/20 05:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Pat Williamson
Aww man that is terrible news. Has he left any equipment? If so chain it to something and throw a lean on it.. lots won’t want anything up front..... Dangit that hurts
No, I wish. He pulled all of his equipment out of there about 2 weeks ago.

Re: Pond Builder Scammed Me
Steve_ #526805 10/15/20 08:55 PM
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You may want to talk to the state federal or county office that deals with timber DNR perhaps. In some instances stealing timber is a federal offense. One of the state or federal agencies can put you on the right track. A Federal offense may be involved here.


"I love living. I have some problems with my life, but living is the best thing they've come up with so far." Neil Simon,
Re: Pond Builder Scammed Me
Steve_ #526806 10/15/20 10:24 PM
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Why in the world would you pay up front?????? If I was hiring someone that couldn't do the work first and get paid later I would not use them....I owned my own refrigeration business for years and I would NEVER ask for cash up front unless it was a customer I had issues out of previously.

Re: Pond Builder Scammed Me
Steve_ #526809 10/16/20 03:39 AM
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Agree with slap a lien on his equipment.


It's not about the fish. It's about the pond. Take care of the pond and the fish will be fine. PB subscriber since before it was in color.

Without a sense of urgency, Nothing ever gets done.

Boy, if I say "sic em", you'd better look for something to bite. Sam Shelley Rancher and Farmer Muleshoe Texas 1892-1985 RIP
Re: Pond Builder Scammed Me
Steve_ #526810 10/16/20 03:48 AM
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Also ask to see or verify his previous work.

Re: Pond Builder Scammed Me
Steve_ #526815 10/16/20 05:05 AM
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Man I hate that for you. Like others said above, I'd look into how to go about putting a lien on his equipment.

Re: Pond Builder Scammed Me
Steve_ #526817 10/16/20 06:50 AM
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Fileing a lien might help you get some money back but it might not. At least that has been my experience with lawyers and liens. I think to beat a crook you have to be a crook or do things you might not normally do. Problem is things could go wrong and that's not good. I personally know ( One a distant friend and one a distant family member) who persued getting their money back from crooks where large amounts money was involved. I'm talking 50,000 to 100,000 ranges. Both times it involved guns. One friend got his money the other is now in jail and in court for murder. It's best to follow the law and see where it takes you.


Do not judge me by the politicians in my City, State or Federal Government.


Tracy
Re: Pond Builder Scammed Me
Steve_ #526819 10/16/20 07:40 AM
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I would have paid 25% up front with no issues. Not gunna kick you while ur down for sure. In life when one door slams in ur face like this another better one will open. The wife n I strongly believe in karma (shes a bad bitch). He will face the music at some point (and maybe BUBBY). Hopefully in the long run it ends up better for ya.


The people who say I can't do it can just sit the @^#% down and watch me. Friends call me Rusto I also subscribe to pond boss mag. http://forums.pondboss.com/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=504716#Post504716
Re: Pond Builder Scammed Me
Steve_ #526825 10/16/20 01:37 PM
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That is so sad to hear, makes me mad, the problem with a lien is that people of his caliber probably owes more on the equipment then its worth or doesn't even own the equipment, or its probably got several liens on it already, I hope you get some kind of restitution out of the guy. Good Luck, wish I had more confidence tho then I do that that will happen. Sorry


All the really good ideas I've ever had came to me while I was milking a cow.
Re: Pond Builder Scammed Me
Johnny Burnette #526826 10/16/20 02:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Johnny Burnette
Why in the world would you pay up front?????? If I was hiring someone that couldn't do the work first and get paid later I would not use them....I owned my own refrigeration business for years and I would NEVER ask for cash up front unless it was a customer I had issues out of previously.

I know, I messed up. I just got caught up in the whole thing, got anxious, and felt like he was being sincere. I wanted it done, and when he said he needed more money to get it done, I gave in. I figured that if I said no, that it wouldn't get done.

Regarding the liens, I don't even know if he has his own equipment. He said that he did when he came out to give me an estimate, but all of his equipment had rental stickers on it, so I'm not sure. When I say "all of his equipment" he really only a skid steer and a mini excavator (track hoe). He never brought any big equipment out.

I'm currently looking into the timber theft, and seeing what I can do about it. Thank you all for the support and advice. I got a guy coming out next week (the first guy who gave me a quote), to see how much it will cost to finish this project. All I have left is the dam, making the sides a bit wider, and the tree removal. Most of the trees are already knocked/cut down, and are laying in the pond bottom.

Originally Posted by gehajake
That is so sad to hear, makes me mad, the problem with a lien is that people of his caliber probably owes more on the equipment then its worth or doesn't even own the equipment, or its probably got several liens on it already, I hope you get some kind of restitution out of the guy. Good Luck, wish I had more confidence tho then I do that that will happen. Sorry

Yup, that's why I can't stand the court system, and this guy clearly knows how to play it very well. He did just enough work to think that maybe I won't file charges. Even if I take him to court and win, I probably won't see the money again. If he doesn't voluntarily pay up, then I need to take more legal action to try to get paid via wage garnishments or bank levies. I'd probably guess he has his assets hidden very well. Also have to consider court costs and/or lawyer fees if I decide to go that route. It's just a big mess right now.

Last edited by Steve_; 10/16/20 02:14 PM.
Re: Pond Builder Scammed Me
Steve_ #526827 10/16/20 02:43 PM
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I must say that I too have lost faith in the legal system based on similar experiences. Its a hard pill to swallow. Sorry that this happened to you.

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Re: Pond Builder Scammed Me
Steve_ #526828 10/16/20 03:16 PM
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I don't pay anything until the job is complete to my satisfaction. I get references beforehand. I have no faith whatsoever in the legal system here.

Re: Pond Builder Scammed Me
John Fitzgerald #526830 10/16/20 05:13 PM
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Originally Posted by John Fitzgerald
I don't pay anything until the job is complete to my satisfaction. I get references beforehand. I have no faith whatsoever in the legal system here.

Yeah, the issue I was having was the lack of pond builders in the area. A google search only turned up people that do small garden ponds, not fishing ponds, so my options were limited. I did get 3 quotes, but the guy that ripped me off was the only one that sounded remotely interested in even taking on the project, which is why I picked him. I was ok with paying $2500 up front, but when he asked for more money, in the back of my mind I'm thinking, "I know I shouldn't do this but if I don't, then my pond won't get finished" so I stupidly kept giving him money.

I've never done any of this before, never hired a contractor in my life, so I just assumed that paying some money upfront was common practice. After all, they're protecting themselves, too.

Re: Pond Builder Scammed Me
Steve_ #526831 10/16/20 07:03 PM
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No, don't pay upfront for land improvements. At least I never have. The contractors are already protected somewhat in that they could put a mechanic's lien on your place if you didn't pay after satisfactory performance.

Re: Pond Builder Scammed Me
Steve_ #526834 10/16/20 07:33 PM
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Steve, I feel bad for you. I hate to say it but I thought something didn't sound right when you said he was using a skid steer to clear with when if he was going to bring out a dozer, it would do the job so much faster. I also hate to tell you but my pond site was all wooded with thick under growth and the clearing part of the project was much cheaper than the dam part.
I hope you can figure out a way to get your pond soon!


Bob


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Re: Pond Builder Scammed Me
Steve_ #526836 10/16/20 09:18 PM
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Steve:

My condolences. I agree with going after him for timber theft and what every else you can without digging much deeper into your pocket.

I would contact the county NRCS office and talk to them about their pond builder list. They can't recommend anyone but if you ask them "If you were having a pond built who would be the first 3 or 5 contractors that you would call?" might get you a jumping off point.


www.hoosierpondpros.com


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Re: Pond Builder Scammed Me
Bobbss #526900 10/19/20 01:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Bobbss
Steve, I feel bad for you. I hate to say it but I thought something didn't sound right when you said he was using a skid steer to clear with when if he was going to bring out a dozer, it would do the job so much faster. I also hate to tell you but my pond site was all wooded with thick under growth and the clearing part of the project was much cheaper than the dam part.
I hope you can figure out a way to get your pond soon!

Well, when I bought the property, I was fortunate enough to have a basic pond shape already formed. The biggest issue was the tree removal, which is probably 75% done. In my case, there won't actually be a lot of dirt that needs to be moved, other than for the dam. He has a several large piles of clay set aside specifically for the dam, and had claimed that he could finish the project in 1 day with his D9 dozer (if he even has one). I don't think he owns his own equipment, other than a truck with a big flatbed for hauling the smaller equipment.

@esshup - When I contacted them about their permit information regarding pond size and dam height, I asked him that very question and he said they no longer keep a list of pond builders. I'm seeing how incredibly easy it is to rip someone off in the pond building business. Sad.

Re: Pond Builder Scammed Me
Steve_ #526901 10/19/20 01:44 PM
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Sorry Steve - this is exactly why I encouraged you to contact me when you were inquiring about sealing ponds about a month ago. I was going to walk you through every step of the pond building process and would have likely learned about this contractor through our discussions and would have strongly encouraged you to avoid someone trying to build your pond with a skid steer and mini E. I also would have likely learned about his request for $ up front and would have related it as a red flag. I guess this is water under the bridge.

FORUM if pond/fishery pro offers free consulting time I strongly suggest you take them up on it. This serves as a prime example of why...and also why the Forum is also so valuable. ASK QUESTIONS! We are here to help!


Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after. ~ Henry David Thoreau

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Re: Pond Builder Scammed Me
teehjaeh57 #526902 10/19/20 02:05 PM
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Yeah, he said he had all of the equipment to do it. I just figured he was starting with the 2 smaller pieces of equipment and would bring in the big boys to build the dam and finish it off. My neighbor has experience running heavy machinery, and offered to give it a try if I rented the equipment. I'm weighing all of my options at this point.

Re: Pond Builder Scammed Me
Steve_ #526917 10/19/20 08:26 PM
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Is this criminal fraud?


It's not about the fish. It's about the pond. Take care of the pond and the fish will be fine. PB subscriber since before it was in color.

Without a sense of urgency, Nothing ever gets done.

Boy, if I say "sic em", you'd better look for something to bite. Sam Shelley Rancher and Farmer Muleshoe Texas 1892-1985 RIP
Re: Pond Builder Scammed Me
Dave Davidson1 #526918 10/19/20 08:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Dave Davidson1
Is this criminal fraud?

So far, the deputy I talked to said it would only be civil... not sure how that works because he stole a bunch of timber from me, which would make it criminal, and in some circumstances, timber theft can be a federal offense.

Re: Pond Builder Scammed Me
Steve_ #526919 10/19/20 09:42 PM
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Steve, I don't want to give you a hard time and I'm only saying this to try and help, but I wouldn't go by anything that guy said. How long and high is your dam going to be? My dam is about 150' long and 21' high. They got all of the dirt to build it out of the pond area. They was hoping to make it 26' high but they ran out of dirt. It takes a LOT of dirt! The sides of my pond are pretty steep from all the dirt they took out to make my dam. They used two 953 high lifts to build it and it took about 4 days. Maybe my guys were slow, but I can't see someone building much of a dam in 1 day.


Bob


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Re: Pond Builder Scammed Me
Steve_ #526923 10/19/20 10:24 PM
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Steve:

Go talk to the State Forrester. Talk to them about the value of the timber that was stolen, THEN go to the police and say "X" stole "$$$" of timber from me and I want to press theft charges. Be proactive, don't sit back and let this sucker get one on you too.


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