COLORADO SPRINGS — There's not much Brian Zimkas will say that is positive about Statewide Restoration but he says he made "some" headway after we started asking the company why the repairs to his Colorado Springs home that burned more than year and a half earlier still were not complete. In 2020, his home caught fire as he and his family were sleeping.
"Their intentions on day one when they showed up here on June 10, 2020 was to make me a victim their operation and yet they make me feel 100% at ease," said Zimkas. "They had guys out here boarding up the side of my house, asking if we needed anything, volunteering to take the cars to have them cleaned to get the smoke damage out of it, just these little details that you kind of really think that would be good to be happening when you’re in a state like that. It's a façade."
"They did the winterization of the home and they boarded up everything," said Statewide Restoration customer Brian Wynne.
Wynne claims he's one of Statewide's victims, too. He says his home caught fire in 2020 as he was taking a nap. He says as soon as his insurance adjuster showed up to the scene, so did a representative from Statewide.
"(The insurance adjuster) started giving me a list of the contractors I would have to call to clear out the house, and to remove and clean what textiles could be salvaged, and to do the demolition on the home and he walks over, the salesman, Ian, he's like, 'Excuse me but if you hire us you won't have to do any of that.we handle everything.' I thought, 'Well this guy must've been sent from heaven.'"
"After they got everything cleared out on the home we noticed like for a week or two no one showed up doing anything," said Wynne. "So we called them they said, 'Oh we're sorry it's because of the pandemic, people are afraid to work.'"
Wynne says the excuses just kept on coming for 18 months.
"Then once I got the cold water going they said, 'Okay we're not paying for your living expenses anymore because your home is now habitable.' (I said), Oh really? There's no hot water, there's no heat.' They said, 'Well, it is still summer time you don't really need heat right now.'"
Then in September of 2022 both men claim Statewide Restoration abruptly shut down. Customers told me they were sent an email that said, "We regret to inform you that, due to competitive market dynamics, Statewide Restoration and all affiliated entities have ceased operations. We encourage you to seek out a third-party vendor to complete all ongoing projects. If you have any further inquiries, please contact us directly at this email address: email@example.com, or reply to this email."
Zimkas and Wynne were not the only alleged victims. Daniel Hesselius and Becky Navarro say they hired Statewide Restoration to rebuild their homes in Boulder county after the devastating Marshall fire in December of 2021
"We've got to go back, not to square one because we have the design of the house, but we need to go find a builder and go through that whole process again," said Hesselius.
"I felt like I went right back into the emotions right after my house burnt down," said Navarro.
So how can all of these potential victims fight back? Call law enforcement to file a fraud complaint? It's not that easy, say Zimkas and Wynne.
Colorado Springs police told me Zimkas' situation was civil "because work was done, noting the DAO (District Attorney's Office) will not file charges when some level of work has been done."
The El Paso County Sheriff's office said Wynne's case is under investigation and cannot comment.
So I reached out to both the 4th Judicial District Attorney's office and the Colorado Attorney General. Both cancelled interviews with me, the District Attorney's office twice. Instead, they scheduled a news conference to discuss contractor fraud.
Dianne Derby: I hear from a lot of viewers that when they call CSPD, when they call the sheriff's office, they are told specifically because 'some work' was done, the DAO will not investigate that as a criminal complaint. Why is that?
District Attorney Michael Allen: I would have to say one thing is that the investigation actually occurs with the law enforcement agency and then that case is referred to us for potential prosecution. The reason why, if some work is already done but not completed, we have to be able to show evidence that it was intent to permanently deprive somebody of their money or their property.... So if somebody does some of the work but doesn't complete it, that's not necessarily evidence of intent to permanently deprive. That often is a bar to criminal prosecution, which is why it was important to bring in Attorney General Phil Weiser to talk about consumer protection and the avenues that they have available to them that has a slightly lower bar than what the criminal law requires.
Dianne Derby: I think what's difficult is our station has been reaching out to (the Attorney General's) office since March, at least, about a company called Statewide Restoration, which apparently has opened up then shut down, taking money from victims, including the Marshall fire victims, skipping town, and they're left with no option. Yes, they can file a civil complaint, but that takes so much money. Yes, if they win that case, what's the likelihood of them actually getting their money from that contractor? So that's the frustrating part for them. When they go to your office, you say you'll investigate, but they don't know where that's going.
Attorney General Phil Weiser: We do have a constraint as we have investigations proceeding how much we can say. I'll make sure that we are looking at that specific one.
"There are complaints about them everywhere, everywhere," said attorney Heather Marx.
Marx says victims also can sue for both theft and fraud, even if the company claims it shut down because it's out of money.
"So you still sue them," Marx said. "Then if that party doesn't respond to it, you get a default judgment and then you can collect either against that company, you can collect against the people who own the company, the individuals, you can either collect against their home, you can get a judgment against the individuals take anything they have."
What about a class action?
"I think a class action lawsuit is a difficult one, because first of all, you have to certify the class so you have to get a certain number of people together, go to the court and the court has to approve it as being a class that's able to proceed together," Marx said. "Unfortunately, with those kind of cases, the only people that usually end up winning are the attorneys."
In the meantime, both homeowners hired other contractors to finish their projects, leaving them out money and patience for work they say simply was not complete.
"You owe a lot of people money for the crooked operation that you run," said Zimkas.
"The main thing I want really though is to make sure they can't do to anyone else what they did to us," Wynne said.
So who owns Statewide Restoration? Private equity firm RF Investment Partners Home | RF Investment Partners once included Statewide Restoration in its portfolio on it's website but that's been removed. Calls and emails I have sent to the firm have not been returned.
If you believe you are a victim of Statewide Restoration file a complaint directly with your state attorney general's office. In Colorado, you can file a complaint on the office's website.
We will be sure to follow up with Attorney General Weiser to find out if any civil charges could be pending in the case.
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