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FOX 17 Problem Solvers track down missing contractor

Posted at 7:07 PM, Dec 22, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-22 19:07:25-05

ALLENDALE, Mich. -- Five hundred seventy-five dollars might not sound like a lot of money, but to Ellen Denny it’s a quite a bit. She’s in her 60s, living on a fixed income and says that kind of money isn't something she can part with so easily.

Denny and her husband live in Allendale and like to make their home warm and inviting.

"It's kind of like a hospitality ministry where people can come and stay," she said about her basement.

While guests are at their home, the couple does its best to make sure they're comfortable. So Denny decided to do some renovating to get rid of some worn carpet.

"The linoleum here was to be extended across and all the way to the door," she pointed out.

In September, Denny said she called Tyton Interiors in Hudsonville. State records show Russ Emelander owned the small business. Denny said that Emelander installed the existing linoleum a couple of years ago. She was happy and now she wanted the same pattern.
The total cost was just under $760.

For the down payment to get the job started "he said 575."

"I thought that was a little high but because he'd done work before, I thought I'd give that to him," Denny explained.

She said Emelander told her he'd come back to take measurements in a couple of weeks. But when she didn't hear from him, she said she called his business numerous times.

Denny said "the phone would ring and ring and ring," and she couldn't leave a message.

So she also stopped by his business several times over the next three months during its listed business hours. Each time, she said it's dark inside and locked from the outside.
Now she's concerened, and the builder who referred her to Emelander said the concern is for good reason.

"And he said, I think that there's some other people that are pretty concerned about this too," Denny recalled.

She explained, "We're Medicare age. We do ministry. It takes me a while to save up that kind of money."

Denny said she reported the incident to her credit card company, and filed a police report with the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department. Then she called the FOX 17 Problem Solvers. So we went to the Hudsonville business ourselves.

It was locked and appeared no one was there. The Problem Sovlers called several numbers listed for Emelander but didn't reach anyone. So then we went to the last known address listed for Russ Emelander which is also in Hudsonville. A woman came to the door who later identified herself as his ex-wife.

She said, "Oh, he doesn't live here. He lives down the street."

Soon after that interaction, Russ Emelander called the FOX 17 newsroom. He declined an interview but told us over the phone that his company filed bankruptcy just a few weeks ago. He tells FOX 17 that they must have overlooked Denny in the bankruptcy filings, and he is willing to contact her and give her the money back.

Emelander told FOX 17 he has gone through a divorce and some rough times financially. He said Denny should have been contacted by bankruptcy court but must have been overlooked.
He promised us to call Denny and give the money back.

Denny confirmed that she got a call from Emelander around 5 p.m. and that he promised to hand deliver the money and soon. We will follow up and let you know what happens.