EAST GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The stories are similar.
Last March, the Hegeles hired Jeffery Stoltz to remodel their East Grand Rapids home.
“Adding this fourth bedroom was really exciting for us,” Paul Hegele said.
Just a few block away, the Tesserises hired Stoltz in June to redo their home.
“We wanted to open it up, get a bigger kitchen,” Teri Tesseris said.
But what followed was a long list of delays, excuses, questionable bills, half-finished projects and a fraud investigation.
The East Grand Rapids Department Public Safety confirms Stoltz, the owner of Emery Custom Homes and Remodeling, is the subject of that investigation. And there could be more victims than the two who contacted Target 8.
Stoltz also lives in East Grand Rapids. Both families knew him from their kids’ school events. He is also a member of the City of East Grand Rapids Construction Board of Appeals, a board that hears appeals from residents and contractors relating to construction and architectural matters. So when they needed work done, families were more than willing to hire him.
“Our kids went to preschool together, so we knew he was a builder in the area,” Hegele said.
“He was friend with some friends of ours. So we decided let’s help out a local company get going,” Tesseris said.
But there were delays in finishing the projects. Both families understood the reason for some of those delays. Then other concerns began to surface.
“He’s got stuff started he could have just finished,” Hegele said.
“Just one thing after another,” Chris Tesseris said.
“I mean, he’s bounced checks all over town. Our lumber in this house has not been paid for,” Teri Tesseris added.
After getting promises the work would get done, both families kept paying Stoltz. But now, the couples say they’re out much of the upfront money — about $60,000 for the Hegels and more than $66,000 for the Tesserises.
The Hegele family was able to stay in their home, but the Tesserises have had to move into a rental they own in Ottawa County.
Target 8 tried to contact Stoltz. His attorney, Tyler Osburn, said his client hasn’t heard from police about the fraud investigation. He denies any wrongdoing.
Osburn said the Tesserises have banned his client from entering the home to collect his tools. Chris Tesseris said he only wants Stoltz to make an appointment before he goes back to the house, but Stoltz has not called to set up a time.
Both couples admit their chances of getting them money back are slim.
“My whole point in doing this is I don’t want this to happen to anybody else.” Teri Tesseris said.
“If people can learn from this case, there’s a lot of good lesson learned I think in this case,” Paul Hegele said.
East Grand Rapids City Manager Brian Donovan said he will wait for the outcome of the investigation before deciding if Stoltz will remain on the construction appeals board.