Hall of Shame: Complaints build against baffling builder
(WJBK) - He's young. He runs his own company. He does business all over metro Detroit. And he’s got a great story to tell. But he's also got a few secrets he'd rather not talk about, as FOX 2 Problem Solver Rob Wolchek found out.
This guy will talk your ear off. This guy is smooth, so smooth he's a little spooky. Meet James Ciarmataro. A poor businessman everybody's picking on.
And those mean old police? They keep arresting James when he's the victim.
James: "I have a police report and I helped the detectives with that."
Poor James Ciarmataro. Can't an unlicensed contractor who has felony charges in two counties right now, a past stalking conviction and two judgments totaling tens of thousands of dollars in the past few months catch a break?
"My wife gets messages from these people's husbands threatening to rape her," he said.
Get ready to hear some more unbelievable, unfounded claims from angelic James in the next few minutes.
Last year, James Ciarmataro started a construction company called Maddox Construction. He used Facebook to make it look like he'd done a bunch of successful jobs all over metro Detroit.
People started calling James for estimates. And James told them he was licensed. Listen on our FOX 2 undercover video in the video player above.
Prospective customer: "So are you licensed and everything."
Prospective customer: "What kind of license do you have?"
James: "A builder’s license."
James hired subcontractors to do the jobs he was getting, like Corey. Corey's a high school teacher who does tile work in the summer. He did one of James' customer's bathrooms and James paid him more than $3,000. Or so he thought.
"It was a Maddox Construction check and it bounced," Corey said.
Corey took James to court. James told the judge Corey did a lousy job, but Corey had the homeowners there who said Corey did a great job.
"It was really important that I had the customer there to testify on my behalf saying no, everything is good," Corey said.
Corey won a judgment for more than $3,000. What's James have to say about Corey?
"I told him no," James said. "I am not paying you until you fulfill the contract at my home and finish it. See ..."
Wolchek: "Ok. A judge says you are paying him! "
James: "Yes he did."
Wolchek: "So a judge says you are paying him. You owe him $3,154."
"And then I countered him back," James said.
Wolchek: "Did you pay him?"
James sent taunting messages to Corey, saying he has no assets in his name, so, good luck trying to get the money.
Wolchek: "Why don't you have any assets in your name?"
James: "Because when I was young I was hit with identity theft multiple times, so I don’t put anything in my name."
In other words, good luck collecting from me.
And he has a brand new judgment.
Just last week, a homeowner won a $32,000 award against James and Maddox Construction, and he's being sued by a family represented by attorney Andrew Strahan.
"I think what he did to my client is just what he did to numerous other people in and around the community," Strahan said. "And that was to sucker my client into paying a whole bunch of money to do a whole bunch of work that simply never got done."
Strahan says James had the homeowners make the checks out to James personally instead of to his company, and had a crew of knuckleheads come tear the place up and bailed out.
"The work that the new contractor says has to be done," Strahan said. "Not only to get what she thought what she was going to get in the first place, but to clean up the mess left by these scam artists, is going to be $32,995."
James says he's suing them. He also says he's suing Margie.
"I actually have a civil suit against them right now for the money that she owes," he said.
Margie said it was "a nightmare."
They hired him to remodel the home they bought. James had them write out checks in his personal name, instead of his company name and then sent in crews of unskilled laborers to wreck their house.
"We had exposed wires in the wall that were framed in, the wall was cut wrong," Margie said. "We found out our second story floor was sagging over an inch; it was a disaster."
"It looked like to me they didn't know what they were doing," Dean said.
James says he's suing these people, but guess what? We can't find any lawsuits filed by James. We just find lawsuits filed against James. And there he is now bidding on a job.
"James Ciarmataro. How are you buddy? Rob Wolchek from Fox 2."
Wolchek: "You got your contractor's license with you?"
James: "I have it in my car, yeah."
(Remember from the undercover video, James tells his customers he's licensed.)
"You don't have a contractor's license do you James?"
James: "No I don't."
Wolchek: "You tell people that you do though, don't you?"
"I have people under my LLC that do, yes."
Wolchek: "Who's under your LLC that has one?"
James: "His name is Frank."
So, according to James, he doesn't have a license but another builder is registered with the state as the license holder for his company. But I sure didn't see any license attached to his company and its public record. So I ask him.
Wolchek: "What's the name of this Frank guy?"
James: "It's my employee."
Wolchek: "What's his last name?"
James: "I’m not going to say his last name over the news."
This is just the first of many weird things James Ciarmataro has to say.
James has been charged with three counts of felony identity theft in Oakland County. It's set to go to trial next month. So I ask him about it.
James: "I’m a victim of identity theft."
Wolchek: "You're not a victim here; you're the defendant."
James: "No I am the defendant and, yes, you have to go through the legal process, yes. So basically what was happening was someone was sending me things to my home, I caught it, this is
all public knowledge you can look it up, I caught it in time, I ended up calling the police, I have a police report and I helped the detectives with that."
Wolchek: "Then why are you the defendant? Aren't you being charged with felony identity theft?"
James: "Yes. Because my name is on it."
Wolchek: "That makes no sense whatsoever."
James is also charged in Macomb County with felony fraud related charges. Fill me in James.
Wolchek: "Uttering and publishing? In Macomb County?"
James: "Yes. That was dropped to a misdemeanor."
Wolchek: "Well, it's still a criminal charge."
James: "It is because what happened was someone owed me $6,000, he signed over his payroll check to me and I put it in the ATM and that's uttering and publishing."
Wolchek doesn't think we're getting the whole story from James. And the prosecutor said James is still charged with a felony on this count. Onto the next charge.
Wolchek: "Financial transaction device, illegal use...."
James: "Same exact person."
Wolchek: "So you're a victim here. Even though you're the defendant you're a victim?"
James: "Yes, I’m still the defendant. Yes, you need to go through the legal proceedings, yes."
Boy, James' stories sure sound different from the prosecutors'. He says James used someone's credit card without their permission. But James hasn't been convicted of these charges, they're still in court.
But he has been convicted of stalking.
Wolchek: "Who were you stalking?"
James: "Being young. Being young and we broke up."
Wolchek: "So you were stalking a girl?"
James: "Well me and a girl, we broke up."
Wolchek: "So you thought you'd stalk her?"
Wolchek: "Well you pleaded guilty to it didn't you?"
James: "Well, yeah. I was young."
With that, Wolchek walks James back to his car where he gets more vague answers on questions.
Wolchek: "Why are you in the contractor business anyway? Do you have any experience?"
James: "Yeah. I grew up in Massachusetts. On Nantucket Island."
Oh, yes. Nantucket. Famous for its contractors.
Wolchek: "Why'd you move from Massachusetts?"
James: "Personal reasons."
This guy's something else.
There once was a man from Nantucket. When it came to giving a straight answer, well, you know what he said.
Rob will give it to you straight. James, you're in the HHHHHalllllll of Shame.
Remember Frank the mysterious guy who James said holds the builder's license for his company?
Well, Wolchek called Frank and he said he has nothing to do with Maddox Construction, other than he was a sub-contractor on a job with them. And he said he only met James Ciarmataro three weeks ago.