On Your Side Investigation: Customers demand refunds from Rolla, Mo., area contractor (2024)

By Ashley Reynolds

Published: Sep. 7, 2023 at 10:28 PM CDT

PHELPS COUNTY, Mo. (KY3) - The plan was to build their forever home deep in the Ozark mountains. Customers tell On Your Side they paid a Rolla area contractor thousands and don’t know where all the money went.

“We didn’t have a roof when he left,” said Amber Stutzman. “It would rain, and they tarped a little bit, but it was just pouring in the subfloor and soaking it. I remember taking showers while it was raining on us.”

“We should have burnt it down,” said Adam Stutzman.

It was supposed to be a new life for the Stutzman family.

“All of our family is in Oregon. We don’t have any in Missouri, so we are starting new,” said Seble Stutzman.

They rolled up their sleeves to get the roof over their heads. Meanwhile, six of them squeezing into the RV.

“We’ve been living in it for like a long time,” said Seble.

They hired Gene Matlock with Matlock Construction. He also operates Gene Matlock Construction LLC and is tied to M Construction LLC. The Stutzman family hired him in January 2022 and paid him $75,000 for a remodel. They say money was supposed to be for all materials and labor, but it wasn’t written down.

“That was kind of our fall. We trusted too much,” said Adam Stutzman.

They say Matlock came out and did some demos. After a few weeks, they didn’t see any progress. They asked for a detailed invoice. They got a typed-out list of projects from Matlock with amounts next to them.

“He started asking for more payments. And we’re like, you have all this, and we don’t have a project done,” said Adam Stutzman.

Shortly after that, Matlock left. That was more than a year ago. The family filed a report with the sheriff’s office. They filed a complaint with the Attorney General and Better Business Bureau. Matlock did not respond.

About 45 minutes south, Joe Walla had Matlock build him a new house. Walla says he didn’t finish.

“You can see the large crack that is left over,” said Walla as he pointed to the foundation walls. “You never want to see this type of honeycomb.”

Walla did have a contract.

“I had to go to legal docs (website) and get that to have him sign to have the bank be happy,” he said.

Walla paid Matlock $126,000 for a down payment on the home.

“Six months later, no materials (were) ordered. All we were left was with foundation walls that were barely usable.”

Walla says Matlock asked for more money.

“When you make an order, can you give me an invoice, and I’ll pay you? Seems reasonable. He responded, “If we do it that way, I’m out.”

Walla obtained bank records from the Matlock Construction business account. KY3 News confirmed with another person on the account. After Walla paid his deposit, several purchases were made, including $7,650 to a pharmacy, $479 to a pawn shop, and hunting and fishing permits were paid from the business account, along with more than $100 in ammo.

“Some money was spent to do what was out here. What he claims to have spent on it is so egregious compared to what we can prove with the accounts,” said Walla.

Walla sued Matlock and won a judgment. Last summer, Matlock was ordered to pay Walla nearly $100,000. The only money Walla has seen so far is a $200 garnishment.

“He has taken so much money from us, and we are having to spend so much additional money just to try to hold him accountable,” he said.

Another customer in Christian County recently sued and won. That agreement was for a new garage, but the court document read, ‘no materials were ever ordered.’ Matlock hasn’t paid the nearly $29,000 judgment.

On Your Side went to the business address for Matlock Construction in Phelps County. No one came to the door. Ashley Reynolds left a note. She sent several emails with no response. A few days ago, Gene Matlock answered when she called and told her ‘no comment.’

Walla’s contract is what’s called a cost-plus contract. That’s the total amount to Matlock for materials and labor. That labor was a certain percentage.

“He said he would charge me a super low amount just to help us stay under budget,” he said.

Leaders with the Home Builders Association say most contractors charge between ten and twenty percent. Matlock agreed on 2.5 percent.

“I don’t know how you could keep the lights on at that number. That’s very unheard of. Especially when building an entire home. That’s crazy,” said Aaron Wyssmann with the Home Builders Association of Greater Springfield.

Industry leaders say on big projects, use a title company to help manage it. Agree to what’s known as a draw schedule. Everyone is paid from the account as they do the work and order materials. Everything is double-checked.

“We’ve depleted our savings and dipped into my retirement account to get this house built,” said Walla.

“We have no money. We are putting everything on credit cards,” said Adam Stutzman.

Before the handshake, always have a signed contract with the amount and an estimated completion date. Experts say most remodels are a fixed contract. That’s when both parties agree on one amount for materials and labor. If and when prices and materials change from the original plan, make sure there’s what’s called a ‘change order.’ It is an amendment to the contract.

To report a correction or typo, please email digitalnews@ky3.com

Copyright 2023 KY3. All rights reserved.

On Your Side Investigation: Customers demand refunds from Rolla, Mo., area contractor (2024)
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