COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - A local man named Jerry Thompson posing as a contractor is now in jail after being charged with felony theft of $20,000 that he stole from a family and reportedly spent in Vegas. Thompson called himself 'The Basement Man.'
Have you ever seen those online ads offering contracting services? Some seem like legit companies because they have professional websites. But be careful. There are some to stay away from.
3 years ago, Fritz Kertson was planning to renovate his basement.
"I had this all set up to be my son's room, and this to turn into a living area," he said.
Coincidentally, that same month Thompson, also known as the 'The Basement Man', showed up at his front door step.
"He gave me a reasonable estimate and set me up with a guy so I could refinance the house," he said. "I had to take out more money in order for him to finish it."
Kertson paid him $20,000 for the job, but two in months things got suspicious.
"I called him and was like where's the materials? You were supposed to start last week. What's going on? and he said all the money's gone," said Kertson.
Documents later revealed Thompson spent the money in Las Vegas. Kertson sued Thompson and won. The suit revealed Thompson scammed nine other families, making the total amount of money lost up to $68,000.
The District Attorney then pursued felony criminal charges after investigating those other victims' cases. Thompson was charged with felony theft this past May.
The problem? Three years later this scam is still circulating.
"He was actively pursuing his website and sites like Craigslist," he said.
If you don't do your research, it can be hard to judge who to trust. Det. Jon Price with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office explains people fall victim to this trap all the time.
"These people do it for a living, they're very good at it, so don't be fooled it can't happen to you, because this happens all the time," he said.
How can you verify if a contractor is legit?
Jerry Thompson was also not a licensed contractor with the County. If you have any suspicion, make sure to verify if someone is legitimate by going to Pikes Peak Regional Building Department's website. You can click on active contractor search to verify if they're licensed.
Remember this scam won't just come knocking on your door. It may seem promising at first.
"He had a professional website and business cards," Fritz said. "I just can't believe this people are out there working 24 hours a day trying to steal your money."