PITTSBORO — A Noblesville home improvement contractor is facing new accusations of taking money from customers and not finishing the work, this time in Hendricks County.
WRTV Investigates has been following complaints against Mark Sellers for the past three years.
An active duty military family in Pittsboro says they want to spread the word after they hired Sellers.
Sarah Cunningham struggles to look at the eyesore in her backyard — an unfinished deck, untouched for three months.
Sarah lives in Pittsboro with her six children. Her husband Danny is active duty military.
Before Danny deployed to Kuwait in mid-November, the family wanted to create an addition on their home and needed a contractor to build a deck and stairs.
Danny joined us via video from Kuwait, and said he found a contractor on Craigslist.
"He sent me emails with Mark Fireman,” Danny said. “I thought his name was Mark Fireman."
Danny did internet searches with the name “Mark Fireman.”
"Not really much came up, but I didn’t really think much of it since many small businesses may not have much information out there," Danny said.
The Cunninghams said the contractor insisted on $3,000 cash to start, and then wanted more.
"He said it was just to keep the project going, to get more supplies, lumber is expensive,” said Sarah. “We always want to be fair to people.”
The couple said they paid him more cash, but as the project dragged on, they said Mark asked for more money — so they wrote him $2,500 in checks instead, so their bank would have a record of the transaction.
The last time he did any work was November 3, Sarah said.
“I know that because we wrote him a check on November 3,” Sarah said.
Once they started writing checks, they learned Mark Fireman was actually Mark Sellers.
WRTV Investigates Kara Kenney showed Sarah and Danny a picture of Sellers, and they confirmed that was the man who did work at their home.
“Yeah, that’s Mark,” Sarah said.
WRTV Investigates first told you about Noblesville contractor Mark Sellers back in May 2018 after numerous consumers said they paid Sellers, but he didn’t finish the job.
WRTV Investigates found mounting judgments in Indiana against Mark Sellers dating back to at least 2014 totaling more than $118,400, and Sellers has an “F” rating with the Better Business Bureau.
WRTV Investigates Kara Kenney confronted Sellers in 2018 on behalf of consumers.
KENNEY: There’s a lot of people that say you owe them money. Are you taking people’s money and not doing the work promised?
KENNEY: Tina Duncan, Derek Culnan, Bryan Andrews — they all want their money back. Are you going to give people their money back sir?
SELLERS: Yeah, through the judgments we will.
KENNEY: But you didn't show up in court. Have you paid any of the judgments?
SELLERS: I’m working on that.
KENNEY: What about Colorado?
SELLERS: Working on that too.
The Boulder County District Attorney’s office in Colorado sued Sellers in 2011 for low-balling customers by underbidding construction projects, mispresenting his masonry work on his website, and for using deceptive trade practices.
They obtained a $32,084 judgment against Sellers.
Following our 2018 story, the Indiana Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit accusing Sellers of deceptive practices.
In February 2019, Hamilton Superior Court Judge William Hughes granted a preliminary injunction against Sellers that prevents the contractor from soliciting or engaging in consumer transactions without a contract that follows the Indiana Home Improvement Contracts Act.
Sellers must also “complete the work as agreed,” according to the injunction.
WRTV Investigates caught up with Sellers again in 2019 when Hancock County prosecutors charged him with home improvement fraud.
KENNEY: Are you still working as a contractor?
SELLERS: I work for other companies.
KENNEY: Are you going to pay people back?
SELLERS: That’s why I’m here. I have to.
In February 2020, Sellers reached a pre-trial diversion agreement in that Hancock County case in which he agreed to pay the homeowner $4,000 and he agreed not to commit a criminal offense for a year.
“I had no idea,” Sarah said.
The Cunninghams filed a report with the Hendricks County Sheriff’s Office who is looking into the matter.
"He took advantage of the fact that he knew my husband was deploying,” Sarah said. “We signed up to serve our country and that's the job, and I don't need recognition for that but it would be nice if people were just kind."
The Cunninghams said they initially had a hard time getting Sellers to respond to messages and come finish the job.
But now that they know Sellers’ past, the Cunninghams do not want Sellers back on their property.
They say they’ve paid him a total of $6,500 and they’re asking Sellers to refund half the money for the unfinished work.
"We actually had to pay someone to come back out and clean up the debris and the trash he left,” Danny said. “We have a lot of kids and we can't have that sitting outside."
It’s been a hassle for Danny to help sort out this situation while serving overseas.
“It makes it especially difficult to get anything done,” Danny said. “I can’t make phone calls, plus I’m eight hours ahead.”
WRTV Investigates tried to reach Sellers via phone and email and we are still waiting to hear back.
They hope their story will help other families who are looking to hire a contractor.
"We kind of felt stupid. If we had just done a little more legwork on this guy we could have avoided this whole situation,” Sarah said. “So, that burden falls on us a little bit."
WRTV Investigates contacted the Indiana Attorney General’s Office to see if Sellers could be in violation of the court order and injunction, and a spokesperson says they do not comment on pending litigation.
After WRTV Investigates started asking questions, the Cunninghams said Sellers reached out through an attorney, and offered to pay $2,000 to the Cunninghams if they do not pursue any legal action.
However, no agreement has been reached.
TIPS FOR HIRING A CONTRACTOR:
- Get estimates in writing
- Check for criminal charges or civil suits here
- Check for a contractor’s license
- Ask for references and call them
- Ask to see examples of their work
- Ask about insurance: personal liability, worker’s comp, and property damage coverage
- Pay wisely, not all upfront