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Lowell woman tries to get money back after contractor never builds shed

Lowell women tries to get money back after contractor never builds shed
Posted at 8:54 PM, Oct 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-23 17:14:48-04

LOWELL, Mich. — A woman in Lowell says a local contractor took her money and disappeared after she paid him more than $1,000 to build a shed.

The contractor, Jesus Banuelos, told FOX 17 it sounded like a scam but denied knowing the homeowner, Cynthia Stephens, who hopes to get her money back.

“[Afterwards] I felt like, ‘How could you be so gullible?’” said Stephens. “But, something about his presence made me trust him.”

Over the summer, Stephens put a bid for a handyman on Angi, formerly known as Angie’s List.

Her neighborhood requires residents to have a shed, so she needed help building and installing it.

According to Stephens, she received a call from JB Flooring & Renovations, which is owned by Banuelos.

She says he offered to do the work at a cheaper price if she canceled the Angi job.

A spokesperson for the company confirmed to FOX 17 that Banuelos accepted Cynthia’s original listing before she removed it.

“He came to my home and he said, ‘I’ll tell you what, I’ll build you a shed in two days for $500, but I need $1,300 for the supplies,’” said Stephens. “I’ve been pricing sheds … and it’s like $3,000–$4,000 so I was like, ‘Wow, yeah.’”

Stephens partially paid Banuelos by check, but says he asked her to cancel it and give him cash instead, due to a three-day hold.

Bank records reviewed by FOX 17 show Stephens withdrew the money.

From there, she says Banuelos bought some supplies and promised to get to work that same day.

“He said he was going to start on it now,” said Stephens. “I said, ‘Well, I’ve been running all morning; I’m going to go lay down.’ He said, ‘That’s fine; I’m just going to do what I can do today.’”

Instead of seeing the frame of her shed, when Stephens woke up, she found a few 2x4s nailed together with several others in her yard.

She says Banuelos told her an emergency came up and he would be back in the days after.

“He just kept making excuses,” said Stephens, who alleges Banuelos never returned despite numerous calls and texts. “I’m currently off work for short-term disability. I injured my finger; I tore the tendon in it, so I’m only getting $250 every two weeks, so it was quite a hardship for me.”

When reached by phone this week, Banuelos told FOX 17 it sounded like a scam but declined a formal interview. He suggested someone used his information to trick Cynthia and added he did not know anyone by that name.

Banuelos hung up mid-conversation.

In an attempt to clarify his comments, FOX 17 went to his Kalamazoo home on Thursday.

Banuelos doubled down on his claims before refusing another interview.

According to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, Banuelos is not a licensed contractor in Michigan. All residential builders and maintenance and alteration contractors who construct, repair, alter or improve a residential or combination residential and commercial structure are required to be licensed.

Angi has removed Banuelos from its site as a result of the incident but says it cannot offer Stephens any money since she canceled the job.

Stephens eventually found someone else to build her shed but says it cost her an extra $800 and required her to take money out of her savings to pay for it.

She says on top of the financial impacts, the issue has led to emotional ones too.

“Stress,” said Stephens. “Just a lot of stress and actually feeling … gullible. I feel gullible; I feel ashamed.”

For tips on how to hire a reliable and trustworthy contractor, click here.

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