We all work hard for our money. Imagine handing over thousands of dollars to a stranger, and never getting anything for it. That’s what nearly a dozen Texas families claim happened to them.
Former contractor Chris Lindley tells CBS19 he owes families nearly $250,000, and possibly more.
Jim Baldwin is living in an RV, years after doing business with Lindley.
"Unfortunately, I'm in my fifth year here,” Baldwin said.
His plans were to remodel his home, and live in the RV temporarily. He’s out $90,000 from a deal with Lindley, and his home is still under construction.
Baldwin hired him under the business name “LB6 Construction” for several projects.
At least three families reached out to CBS19 looking for help.
Doing a quick search on Google, there are several business names for Lindley, including “LB6 Industries”, “LB6 Farms” and “Chris Lindley Construction”. Lindley could not explain the different names, and said he only operated under “LB6 Industries.”
"I wrote him a check for $15,000. Then a week later, I wrote him a check for $5,000,” said David Henkle, another unsatisfied customer.
After partial work was completed, Henkle said he wrote him another check for $13,000.
Henkle said he Googled LB6 Construction, but didn’t find any red flags. Meeting Lindley in person, he said he trusted him and his work.
He wanted a “man cave” – a two-story steel building. After paying $40,000, he said there wasn’t much to show for it.
"I had a steel frame,” he said.
The partial work completed by Lindley had to be redone.
"I had to hire somebody to come in and tear part of the roof off and rebuild it right,” Henkle said. “I kept telling him the roof was not right."
Jimmy Harrison invested thousands of dollars for cows for his land. The two agreed to invest $20,000 every year for five years. He committed to a total of $100,000.
"Everything was just on the edge of reasonableness,” Harrison said.
Harrison met Lindley through his brother in law, who only had kind words to say about his character.
He showed CBS19 the contract for the five-year agreement.
"It had language in it that if I had a good deal, or the market wasn't good for that, we could postpone it or accelerate it,” Harrison said.
When time came for cattle to show, he was left empty-handed.
"He plays well,” he said. "We even went to a cattle feed store, and he bought supplies for some calves."
In a phone conversation, Lindley tells CBS19 he’s working to pay these families back.
"I'm trying to do everything right,” Lindley said. “We owe a lot of people money."
Lindley tells CBS19 he stopped contract work in November of 2016, and said he just owed too many people money. He said he and his unnamed business partners are putting a good chunk of their paychecks towards their debt.
"We just sat down and made a list of everybody we owe money. Every week, 50 percent of what we make is going to pay these people back,” Lindley said.
However, he never explained to us exactly how he plans to pay back the people he owes.
Baldwin, Harrison and Henkle said they haven’t gotten any compensation from Lindley. Families reached out to several district attorneys in Texas, including Smith, Upshur and Denton counties.
They said they were all told their cases would be treated as civil, not criminal.
"Just because somebody owes you money, doesn't mean you can throw them in jail,” said Tyler attorney Bill Hommel.
He said contractors are generally protected under civil law, making it harder for families to take legal action. Contractors have some remedies built into the civil law to protect them against not getting paid, but Hommel explained there's not really a similar law for consumers.
He said anytime you sign an agreement or a contract, have thorough documentation.
"With as much detail about what the contractor's promising to do, for the particular amount of money that he's going to be paid, because the more particular you have the agreement, the more likely you are able to prove he made a false statement,” Hommel said.
This increases your chances of taking the case to criminal court.
Hommel said these families should contact the attorney general’s office.
According Texas law, any contract you sign for work on your home must have a warning next to the space for your signature, reading in part:
“You and your contractor are responsible for meeting the terms and conditions of this contract.”
The law also states if the contractor you hire doesn’t pay the suppliers and subcontractors, it’s on you to pay the bill.
A few tips from the Attorney General’s Office include:
- never pay for a job in full
- get bids from more than one person
- have everything in writing
- seek references
- talk with happy customers