St. Louis, Mo., Jan. 18, 2013 – A St. Louis area contractor who defrauded at least 16 homeowners of nearly $90,000 six years ago appears to be back to his old tricks.
Kim Parker stands next to an uncompleted wheelchair ramp Brian Ecker had agreed to build at her home.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) urges extreme caution to anyone considering doing business with Brian Thomas Ecker, 38, former owner of B & C Custom Pools. Most recently, Ecker has operated under the name Brian Thomas and Buildings of Steel.
In recent months, consumers say they paid Ecker and Buildings of Steel between $1,250 and $15,000 each for construction work that has never been completed. Among the consumers is a quadriplegic from Breckenridge Hills who paid $15,000 for construction of a wheelchair ramp that would have allowed him access to his basement in severe weather.
“I have a giant hole in my yard . . . and I don’t have the money to fix it,” the man said. He said Ecker stopped work in November after completing about 20 percent of the project.
“We are desperate,” said the man’s wife.
Buildings of Steel has an “F” rating with the BBB, the lowest possible.
Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said Ecker’s actions show a “blatant and callous disregard for his customers and for basic business ethics.
“Apparently, Mr. Ecker did not learn his lesson the first time,” Corey said. “Clearly, this man is thumbing his nose at the legal system and daring anyone to try and stop him.”
In November 2007, a St. Charles County judge ruled that Ecker and B & C defrauded customers throughout the St. Louis area, taking money for swimming pool construction that he never completed. At the time, the judge said that Ecker’s conduct “rises to the level of deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise, misrepresentation” and “unfair practice.”
The judge also banned him from working in the sales, installation, renovation or maintenance of pools in the state and barred him from “personally accepting funds, or having another accept funds on his behalf, from any individual consumer, in any commercial context whatsoever.”
The judge further ordered him to pay more than $110,000 in restitution and fines. More than five years later, several consumers told the BBB they never received any restitution.
“We haven’t seen a dime,” said a woman from Oakville who was supposed to have received $22,000 from Ecker under the court order. The woman said it felt like “a knife through the heart again” when she learned that Ecker was back in business.
“I don’t know how he can sleep at night knowing what he has done,” she said. “He needs to be in jail.”
Buildings of Steel was registered with the Missouri secretary of state in August 2009, less than two years after the St. Charles judgment involving B & C. Mildred Louise Ecker of Fenton, Ecker’s mother, is listed as sole owner of the business.
On his LinkedIn page, Ecker describes himself as chief field officer of Buildings of Steel and CEO of a company called BriCo Global, a business that “maintains the nation largest portfolio of high quality asset in U. S.” Consumers who have spoken to the BBB said it was clear that Ecker appeared to be running Buildings of Steel.
In July, an Illinois college professor sued Ecker, his mother and Buildings of Steel for $1,400 after claiming she paid him for construction work in Clayton that was never done. When Ecker failed to appear at the court hearing, a judge granted her the full amount.
The woman said that she has been unable to collect the judgment. “He preys on people,” she told the BBB. “He needs to be stopped or he will continue doing this.”
A consumer from Jennings said he paid Ecker $1,250 in July for a driveway replacement project that was never done. The consumer has been unable to collect a refund.
Several attempts to reach Ecker and his mother were unsuccessful.
The BBB offers the following tips to consumers who want to hire a contractor:
- Be cautious about hiring contractors through classified listings such as Craigslist. It is usually best to deal with a company in your area with a solid track record.
- Ask for references and contact them to learn about the company’s work.
- Make sure you have a signed, written contract, spelling out the work to be performed.
- Don’t be fooled by professional-looking websites and online testimonials. Such testimonials are easily fabricated.
- If you have any concerns about a contractor, ask to visit its offices or showroom to help assure yourself that it is a legitimate business.
- Do not pay the full contract amount until the work is completed to your satisfaction.
- Check BBB Business Reviews at www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.
Contacts (News Media Only): Michelle Corey, President & CEO, 314-645-0606, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, 314-584-6743, email@example.com, or Bill Smith, Trade Practice Investigator, 314-584-6727, firstname.lastname@example.org