Investigator | Combative Cleveland fence contractor seeks bankruptcy cover, dodges debt
A Cleveland fence builder accused of verbally attacking disgruntled customers has filed for personal bankruptcy, leaving in his wake dozens of creditors owed thousands of dollars.
Matthew McMillen, the owner of Budget One Fence, named 38 creditors in his federal bankruptcy case filed last month in U.S. District Court. It’s McMillen’s second bankruptcy since 2011.
McMillen cites debts of between $100,000 and $500,000 and assets of under $50,000.
Many creditors listed in court papers are former customers who sued and won court judgments against McMillen and his company. His filing now delays any repayments and makes it unclear if the customers will ever be compensated.
Customers say that not only does McMillen fail to repay debts or complete jobs, he becomes enraged when they complain. Meanwhile, Budget One Fence has been given an “F” rating by the local Better Business Bureau.
“I thought it was a crime to steal from people. But he keeps doing it because he gets away with it,” said Gary Orefice, a Parma homeowner
Orefice paid McMillen about $1,800 to have a wood fence installed. Budget One botched the job, improperly installing posts. The city ordered the posts relocated and Orefice wound up doing the work himself.
He sued McMillen for a refund and won. However, Orefice has never received payment. That debt is listed in McMillen’s bankruptcy filing.
“I got nothing but cussed out,” he said.
The same goes for Westlake resident Catherine Pecoraro. Rocky River Municipal Court records show she’s owed $6,025 by McMillen for a fence he installed around her home. The court found McMillen violated the Consumer Sales Act.
She alleges McMillen twice gave her checks that bounced. Further, she said an angry McMillen challenged her son to a fist fight when the family complained.
“Violent? Yes,” Pecoraro said. “Matt was getting so angry I thought [he] was going to deck my son.”
Pecoraro says she the one who should be angry. She’s out thousands of dollars and has a fence that remains crooked.
"It’s shoddy workmanship," she said.
McMillen tempered has reared itself often. Bob Swagulak saw the wrath when he complained and asked for a $12,000 refund for his condo association, which paid for a fence job that was never completed.
“He like exploded and blew up and was like cussing and swearing. get the eff out of here," he said.
Even WKYC Channel 3 News investigative reporter Tom Meyer nearly came to blows with McMillen when he visited Budget One Fences earlier this year seeking comment to a series of customer complaints.
This week, McMillen was again swearing and combative when Channel 3 News called him for comment. He denied any problems with his customers and even said the previous Channel 3 News report about his company’s poor work only resulted in a hefty increase in business.
Nonetheless, McMillen said Budget One Fence is no longer in operation. He declined to release the name of his new company.
“I’m not a thief,” he said, before abruptly ending the phone call.
Assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor Paul Soucie said it is often difficult for the public to understand why some contractors are charged with theft while others are not. The key is intent to commit a crime.
Soucie invited any consumer to call his office to discuss their case. He can be reached at 216-443-7800.