Worst Indianapolis Contractors of 2009

Worst Indianapolis Contractors of 2009

Paul Girton | Indianapolis

When Paul Girton completes his sentence on home repair fraud charges in Illinois in 2011, Marion County prosecutors want to talk to him about three pending criminal cases here.

Prosecutors allege Girton solicited elderly female homeowners for home improvement work but did little or no work after taking their money.

Rohana McCormack says Girton stopped by her Broad Ripple home in October, claiming to be a roofer who previously worked on her roof. After performing a “free” repair, he claimed she owed him $975 for materials.

Despite misgivings, McCormack says she paid Girton the money. “He looked threatening,” McCormack says.

At press time, Girton could not be reached for comment.

Bill Carr Jr. | Indianapolis, Franklin and Brownsburg

Bill Carr Jr., a contractor who paints, landscapes and trims trees, was convicted three times in Central Indiana criminal courts in 2009.

In May, he pleaded guilty in Marion County to corrupt business influence, and agreed to pay 37 Indianapolis victims more than $40,000 in restitution. He was sentenced to six years in a work-release facility and two years’ probation.

Carr also pleaded guilty in Johnson and Hendricks counties to one count each of theft in July.

He was ordered to pay Brownsburg homeowner Donna Gatlin $1,400 for never starting a January 2008 tree-trimming job and sentenced to 90 days in jail. “I thoroughly trusted him,” Gatlin says. “But he never did any work.”

Johnson County ordered Carr to pay more than $14,000 in restitution to 11 victims. He’ll serve both counties’ sentences concurrently with Marion County’s work-release sentence.

Carr also made the list of Worst Indianapolis Contractors in 2008 based on similar criminal complaints that year and three Penalty Box cases of shoddy or incomplete work performed by his companies’ aliases, which resulted in member alerts.

In Carr’s defense, his attorney, David Hennessy, says, “In each case, there was some work completed in the neighborhood that people were happy with. It just happens that people get behind.”

Jonathon D. Stowe/Champion Martial Arts | Noblesville, Carmel and Zionsville

Jonathon D. Stowe abruptly closed his three martial arts studios in late 2008, leaving more than 70 families with unfulfilled long-term contracts worth more than $330,000, according to an Indiana attorney general lawsuit.

Stowe opened studios in Zionsville, Noblesville and Carmel, and used high-pressure sales tactics to convince customers to pay for multi-year contracts in advance to get substantial discounts, according to the lawsuit. But when Stowe’s businesses faced eviction for failing to pay landlords, each closed its doors without warning.

“He deceived families and he deceived children,” says Jackie Holcomb, who paid $3,600 up-front for a multi-year program, but received less than a year’s worth of martial arts classes at the Carmel studio for her then 11-year-old son.

Stowe filed for bankruptcy in March. Although the Indiana attorney general won a $500,000 default judgment against Stowe in May, the bankruptcy means consumer restitution likely won’t occur.

“The likelihood of collecting on this was slim to none,” says the AG’s consumer protection section chief, David Paetzmann. Instead, Stowe agreed to not do business in Indiana for the next five years and pay $5,000 in civil penalties.

At press time, Stowe’s bankruptcy attorney didn’t return calls and Stowe could not be reached.

— reporting by Joshua Palmer

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