A woman from Springfield says she spent thousands of dollars for a home improvement project but has nothing to show for it. The company she hired has disappeared after its owner went to federal prison.
“Whenever it rains it dumps on the deck,” said April Miller, explaining a problem with her home.
Miller is a single mom who needs a new roof over her family. She also needs new siding and gutters. That’s why she hired Midwest Modern Exteriors in 2011.
“I thought it was a pretty good deal,” she said. “There was a certain type of siding I was looking for and they carried it in the colors I want.”
Miller started to make payments.
“They've come out three different times to take bids. They told me they were changing products.”
She sent checks every month.
“I kept getting these promises and thinking maybe they are going to do something,” she said. “Midwest Modern Exteriors owes me about $21,000, if not more.”
Miller says Midwest Modern Exteriors never touched her house.
“A lot of times, people's response is ‘Why didn't you stop paying them?’ I did to an extent. It makes me nauseous,” she said. “I just want my money back. I never received a call after that.”
Now she can't get hold of anyone at Midwest Modern Exteriors. There's a new business in the old location.
The business’ telephone number is disconnected. No one answers the owner’s cell phone number. A reporter left a message at that phone number but hasn’t heard back from the family or employees of owner, Richard B. Gillette.
Records at the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office show Gillette created his company in 1997 and filed required annual reports until 2011. He listed himself as president, secretary and the sole board member of the incorporated company. It was at 1811 W. Sunset St. in Springfield. The reports said Gillette lived at 842 E. North St. in Nixa at the time of the filings.
A federal grand jury indicted Gillette in 2011 for five counts of bank fraud and nine counts of money laundering. Investigators said he fraudulently took out a $1.2 million bank loan on his home by overstating his income. Investigators said he used part of the loan to buy a Lamborghini car for $142,000.
Gillette pleaded guilty in May 2012 for one count of money laundering, and prosecutors dismissed the other charges. He received a two-year prison sentence, which he started serving in early 2013, followed by three years of supervised release. A judge also ordered Gillette to repay nearly $1.3 million to the bank. He also was ordered to participate in a substance abuse program in prison and while he is on supervised release.
Since going to prison, Gillette tried to convince a judge to let him withdraw his guilty plea, or to let him out of prison early because of poor health. The judge denied both of Gillette's requests.
“It is a problem for us,” said Glenn Atkinson of Modern Exteriors, a longtime company on Norton Road in northern Springfield.
Atkinson was more than happy to talk to a reporter, because his company is often mistaken for Midwest Modern Exteriors.
“We've had people walk into our showroom here that were upset. They showed us their paperwork and in small print it says Midwest. All they see on there is Modern Exteriors,” said Atkinson. “I just can't believe people are like that out there.”
We found Midwest Modern Exteriors does not have a business license in Springfield.
Experts say you should never pay upfront for renovation work. You also should always ask for proof of insurance and business license.