Worst Fort Worth Contractors of 2010
J-Tex Construction | Fort Worth, Texas
Norris Fisher, 62, owner of J-Tex Construction, pleaded guilty in October to federal felony charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and three counts of mail fraud in regard to his scheme to fraudulently obtain real estate, according to U.S. Attorney James Jacks of the Northern District of Texas.
He faces up to 80 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and restitution. Fisher, who remains in federal custody, is scheduled to be sentenced in February. Federal authorities say Fisher targeted more than 100 properties in Tarrant County, most of which were vacant.
He illegally forged deeds, transferred ownership to companies he controlled and then sold the properties, according to court records. One victim, Margaret Jennings, 84, of Fort Worth says she tried to pay taxes on property inherited from her father, but learned she no longer owned it.
"My daddy worked so hard for that land," she says. Court records indicate Fisher sold it to a local business that had no knowledge of his illegal activities.
As part of Fisher's plea agreement, he must identify any assets that can be used for restitution and he must assist the government in identifying and returning to the rightful owners any properties that he fraudulently acquired.
State records indicate Fisher's Texas mortgage broker license was revoked in 2007. His attorney, Mark Danielson, did not return calls.
ATVDiscounter | Dallas
Angie's List member Barbara Sollberger says the $2,500 "new" motorcycle she purchased from ATVDiscounter had a cracked cast-iron motor, burn marks around the motor casing, loose bolts and light problems. "It was terrible," she says. "My husband and I were afraid to drive it."
Sollberger of Midlothian [Texas] says she returned the motorcycle for repairs in late 2009 to ATVDiscounters. "They still have it, and our money, as well," she says. "They are very unscrupulous. Somebody is going to get killed [on one of their vehicles]."
She is one of 67 consumers in 38 states who complained about the company to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who subsequently sued ATVDiscounter owners Sheri Lynn Barling, 36, and Glen Mark Barling, 57, in February for violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
The Barlings settled in July, agreeing to pay $100,000 in restitution. As of October, the Barlings had paid nothing, the AG's office says. The company, whose work doesn't require a license, has an F rating on Angie's List, and a member notice for being out of business.
Another victim, Gary Holmes of Cypress, says he received two titles for a $2,100 scooter he purchased - both written in Chinese. He can't drive the scooter legally because he can't register it without the proper title.
"I'm thinking of putting it in the back of my pickup with a sign saying, 'If you see one of these, run, don't buy it!'" he says. State records indicate the business is dissolved.
The Barlings could not be reached and their attorney, Rick Guzman, did not return calls.
Tatum Roofing | Arlington, Texas
Tatum Roofing owner Jerry Tatum, 44, pleaded guilty to felony theft charges in Tarrant County District Court in May, admitting to defrauding 17 roofing customers. He received 180 days in jail, 10 years probation, and he must pay more than $162,000 to customers.
Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney David Lobingier says nearly 60 victims who hired Tatum reported he did partial work or none at all. Pat Carew of Colleyville says he paid Tatum $12,000 for roof work that was never started. "He's a good con man, you won't find a better one," Carew says.
In June, a judge denied Tatum's bankruptcy. Tatum, whose work doesn't require a license, says he relied on projected business income when making spending decisions. His roofing company, with an A rating on Angie's List based on one report, is out of business.
A notice has been added to alert members to his felony conviction. "I learned a valuable lesson," says Tatum, who claims to be studying for a degree in nutrition and fitness, and working to make restitution. "I am very sorry for the circumstances that affected many people."
— by Nick McLain