Troubleshooter

Contractor accused by homeowners

Monday, May 20, 2013

Mary Nemeth says she's out $14,000.

"He stole all my money," she told me. "We have five kids. All we wanted was a yard. We didn't get it."

"All I have is a mud hill and the kids can't play out here," she continued.

In April 2012, Nemeth said she hired Jimmie Cartrette of Carolina Construction out of Fayetteville to build a retaining wall and fix the drainage issues in her yard.

"He said he was a structural engineer. He could actually do that - to give him about three weeks to get the permits," Nemeth recalled.

The total contract was for $19,000.

"We gave him $8,500 up front. He came back and basically hit my husband up for another $5,500. So he got $14,000 in cash," said Nemeth.

But after a few weeks and no work, Nemeth called Cartrette.

"He brought a Bobcat here for two hours. He dumped a little bit of dirt in our yard. And that's the last we saw of him," she said.

Nemeth said she tried for months to get Cartrette back to do the job.

"I gave him every opportunity to come and do this to make this right. And he kept saying, 'I'll be here. I'll be here. I'll be here,'" she recalled.

But she said he never showed, and she's out her money.

"We're still stuck with a mess - a really big mess - and we can't go back to the bank and say, 'Hey, can we have another twenty grand?' The man stole it," she explained through tears.

Cartrette has been the subject of a Troubleshooter report before. I spoke with him last July when a Raleigh woman was unhappy with the progress on renovations at her home.

Click here to read that story

What Nemeth said she found even more frustrating is Cartrette's past.  In March 2007, he was convicted of cheating Staten Island families out of as much as $1 million for promised renovations.  Cartrette pleaded guilty to grand larceny and scheming to defraud and spent more than two years in New York state prison.

"I want people to know that this is really a bad guy. People are out there hiring this man. He's taking their money. He's not doing anything. He doesn't even have a contractor's license," Nemeth said.

Now years after his release from prison, Cartrette is facing charges again for Nemeth's job in Harnett County. Cartrette is charged with failing to do work after getting paid.  And that's not all. He's also charged in Wake County with felony worthless check and obtaining property under false pretenses greater than $100,000.  According to the arrest warrant, Cartrette made himself out to be a contractor and the homeowner paid him more than $120,000 for a renovation that was never finished.

Nemeth may be getting some good news soon, Cartrette's attorney tells me Cartrette has agreed to pay back Nemeth the $14,000, and she could have it as early as Tuesday.

When it comes to the Raleigh homeowners who paid Cartrette more than $120,000, Cartrette came to our newsroom armed with what he said are receipts to prove he actually did more $160,000 worth of work on that home and he's still owed money on the job. 

I did point out that many of the receipts were handwritten and not specific to the home.  Cartrette insisted he completed the majority of the job and wanted to finish it, but the homeowners would not let him. 

When I pointed out that regardless, he's not licensed to do the job, he said his business partner at the time the job started was licensed, and the homeowners knew that and still wanted to move forward with the job even when he says the licensed contractor dropped off it.  The homeowners deny that and tell me Cartrette completed about 30 percent of the work. Cartrette responded to that by saying, "so your question a minute ago, is everybody lying, yes, unequivocally yes, they all found out I had record so let's now take what we can take."

As of now, the criminal charges still stand - along with a civil lawsuit. While Cartrette told me he's going to fight it, his attorney tells me they're trying to make things right with them.

While we always tell you to do you research when it comes to hiring a contractor, both of the homeowners say they found Cartrette on Service Magic's website.  Service Magic - which is now called Home Advisor - is a website that claims to help homeowners get connected to top rated and pre-screened professionals who can help bring your home improvement dreams a reality. 

While that didn't happen in either of these cases, a representative with Home Advisor told me they do prescreen all of their contractors and Cartrette passed at the time of his enrollment.  He has since been removed from their network due to complaints.  It was discovered once we compared Cartrette's birth date with the one Home Advisor had on file, that Home Advisor had the information of a different Jimmie Cartrette that they pre-screened who they say has no criminal record.  When I questioned Cartrette on it, he said that information was his son who he claims is a business partner.  The rep with Home Advisor added they take homeowner complaints very seriously and have offered compensation to Nemeth, but she has yet to take it. Nemeth said it was just $500, which does not even come close to what she's out.

Cartrette is not licensed to do any work for project contracts worth over $30,000, and that is one thing you should always check out.

If someone claims they are, get their license number and actually check to see they're telling the truth. 

Click here for the North Carolina Licensing Board website where you can do that.

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