A Cleveland fence builder exposed by Channel 3 News for shoddy work and verbally attacking disgruntled customers has now drawn the attention of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.
Matthew McMillen, the owner of the former Budget One Fence, and his wife and business partner, Stephanie Reed, were named Wednesday in a lawsuit alleging unfair and deceptive sales practices.
DeWine said in a press release that his office found “a pattern of problems” and that his office is seeking restitution for customers and other damages.
The suit was filed in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court and alleges McMillen and Reed violated Ohio’s consumer sales practices act and home solicitation sales act.
Reached by phone Wednesday, McMillen declined comment.
He fence company is now called Lake Erie Fence.
Customers interviewed last year by Channel 3 News complained of shoddy work, fences not installed and McMillen’s violent temper when they asked questions.
DeWine’s investigation also found McMillen took deposits but never completed some jobs or the company failed to properly install some fences.
McMillen last year sought bankruptcy protection, naming 38 creditors in his federal bankruptcy case filed in U.S. District Court. He cited debt over $100,000.
It was McMillen’s second bankruptcy since 2011. He later dismissed the case.
Budget One Fence also had 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 and customer.
Orefice paid McMillen about $1,800 to have a wood fence installed. Budget One botched the job, improperly installing posts. City inspectors 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.
DeWine said his office has received 15 complaints and McMillen has $40,000 worth of judgments pending in courts around Cleveland.
Other customers complained of McMillen’s temper and threats.
Even WKYC Channel 3 News investigative reporter Tom Meyer nearly came to blows with McMillen when he visited Budget One Fences last year seeking comment to a series of customer complaints.
To help prevent home improvement problems, the Attorney General’s Office made the following recommendations:
• Research contractors carefully. Ask neighbors, friends, or family members for recommendations. Check for complaints on file with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office or the Better Business Bureau. Talk to other customers and ask them about their experiences with the contractor.
• Get several written estimates. Before making a final decision, ask for and review estimates from several contractors. Don’t assume that the lowest estimate is your best option.
• Check your cancellation rights. In Ohio, you generally have a three-day right to cancel a contract that results from a door-to-door sale. Sellers must give you written notice about this right.
• Be wary of requests for large down payments. It’s reasonable for a contractor to require a down payment, but be skeptical if you’re asked to make a large payment (such as half or more of the total cost) before any work begins. If possible, pay in increments as the work is completed.
Consumers who suspect an unfair or deceptive sales practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.