ANNA, Ohio (WDTN) — A Shelby County man says he’s out more than $100,000 after a builder filed for bankruptcy and bailed on his project.
“I was building a house, roughly a 2,400 square foot house with a pole building attached to it,” describes Bill Fanslow.
Fanslow bought a five-acre piece of land in Anna to build his dream home.
He says he did research, requested quotes, checked multiple references, and decided to go with Blaine Builders out of Urbana, owned by John Stoner.
In the summer of 2017, Fanslow drew up designs and contracted with Blaine Builders paying $130,000 for the initial cost of the project.
“They seemed like a very solid company,” said Fanslow.
In November 2017, they started work on the project. Blaine Builders had to hire an excavator to get the land ready, and they asked for an additional $8,000 for gravel for the driveway.
“Probably about two weeks after the project started, it came to a halt,” said Fanslow.
He says Stoner would not return any of his calls.
Stoner and Blaine Builders filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy before the project was ever completed.
Fanslow was out the money he paid, and while he had the pole building built by Cleary Building, the house was never started.
“There just seems to be no way that I’m going to recover the money,” said Fanslow.
Fanslow filed a claim in bankruptcy court, but the court ruled Stoner was a bad businessman. With legal fees, Fanslow estimates he’s lost more than $200,000.
“It’s not civil. This is far beyond a bad business practice or a roof not getting done right or trees not getting– You’re talking a lot of money here. And these people have lost their dreams and everything they’ve worked for their whole entire life,” said Detective Stephen Rhodes with the North Lewisburg Police Department.
Detective Rhodes started looking at the paper trail after receiving a complaint from a homeowner.
“It started in January of 2018. My sergeant at the time took a complaint from a local resident here in North Lewisburg about the issue at hand – some shoddy construction work, things not being taken care of, not getting contact from the contractors,” describes Detective Rhodes. “She had a foundation, some electrical work, and the basic structural stuff done, but none of it was passing inspections, and she couldn’t get any answers from the contractor or the people who were doing the work.”
Detective Rhodes said there were too many red flags, and as he started looking into that homeowner’s case, that’s when he found Fanslow and two other victims.
When he started looking into the case, he said one of the men doing a majority of work for Stoner and Blaine Builders was Matthew Taylor, a convicted felon with recent fraud and theft charges on his record.
“It’s not typically somebody you want to put in charge and claim that you give all the money to and allow them to make financial decisions for upwards of $600,000 in projects,” said Detective Rhodes.
Working with Fanslow and the other victims, Detective Rhodes started issuing subpoenas for federal records so he could start following the money. Detective Rhodes said something wasn’t adding up and there were discrepancies in Stoner’s finances.
“You had a lot of transactions going from personal accounts to business accounts, which is a no-no. You shouldn’t be doing that,” said Detective Rhodes. “He’s writing checks for car purchases. He’s buying a home during bankruptcy. He’s buying $7,000 in furniture. Keep in mind this is all after he’s filed bankruptcy. So, he’s supposedly broke and has no money to pay his debts.”
2 NEWS reached out to Stoner, as well as his attorney for comment. Neither responded.
Detective Rhodes said this goes beyond a civil case and said it’s criminal.
“Nobody from the local level all the way through the federal courts for bankruptcy courts have determined where this money went,” said Detective Rhodes. “I think that I can prove that he has intentionally hid or misled them on the assets that he had at the time he filed bankruptcy with the financial records I have right now.”
The case has never been criminally prosecuted. He said he spoke with Tim Sell, the Shelby County prosecutor, presented the facts, but then his emails and calls went unanswered.
2 NEWS reached out to the Shelby County Prosecutor’s Office, specifically Sell, for comment. He never responded.
Detective Rhodes said now, he needs help from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation to focus on financial analysis to tell him how much money came in, how much went out, and where it went in order to present it to prosecutors to be able to prove fraud.
“They can break all that down for me. They can show it to me. And that’s all we’ve been asking for. I’m not asking Yost or the AG’s office to take the case. I’m full capable of prosecuting a felony case in this county. I’ve done it for over five years. I just need the resources to provide the proof I need to take to my prosecutors,” said Detective Rhodes. “Just with what I have come up with on my own and working with Bill the last few years doing this, I feel there’s more than enough sufficient evidence for BCI or the AG’s office to give us the assistance we need.”
Both Fanslow and Detective Rhodes said their communication and requests with the Ohio Attorney General and BCU have gone in circles and they’ve gotten nowhere.
“I send letters. I send registered letters. I send emails, and we just typically get the same runaround. We’ll have Detective Rhodes contact BCI, and of course, that just goes in a loop that goes over and over,” saidFanslow.
“It’s bad enough that the crime happens and you’re out that money. But then when you go to the law, and you’re looking for assistance to say, ‘hey here’s a crime that happened, this money was stolen from me,’ and you get nowhere with either a local prosecutor or at the state level with Dave Yost our Attorney General after multiple requests for assistance –We just get ignored. And that’s probably the most frustrating. So, it kind of adds insult to injury with that,” said Fanslow. “It’s one thing to get ripped off, but then not to get the prosecution to put this guy away and try to get some restitution out of him – it’s just a huge disappointment.”
2 NEWS reached out to the press secretary with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. He responded saying he would look into the matter. There was no further response.
“We’re not going to go away. We’re not going to let it go,” said Detective Rhodes. “These people have worked their whole lives. They put this money back. They saved this money in retirement. They plan on having their forever homes built, living comfortably, enjoying the last bit of their lives, and their lives have been nothing but turned upside down and destroyed for at least the past three to four years. We have some of the victims that are now going to be forced to go back to work to fulfill these obligations that they have and things they want to do because this guy took their money and nobody knows where it went.”
Until Fanslow and Detective Rhodes get the answers they want, neither is giving up.
“I’m not letting go of this. It’s now my life’s mission that I’m going to keep working on this,” said Fanslow.