A trail of broken promises and consumer complaints against a Connecticut company has forced Fox CT to take action.
Some of those complaints have been resolved, but our Fox CT investigation into the company found a disturbing pattern of problems, and one glaring issue that still exists.
So we decided to shed some serious light on the company by digging for details.
There are a dozen Better Business Bureau complaints against New England Sheds, and they’re all shockingly similar – customers paying thousands in deposits but not getting a shed.
“I had given him a deposit of over $3,000 at that point … in early April,” says Guilford customer RJ Bunch.
But Bunch says it was excuse after excuse from New England Sheds owner Demetrios Katras.
The state says Katras eventually refunded the rest of his customers, but not before the 12 buyers listed in BBB complaints paid deposits totaling more than $10,000 between them, waited for months and never got a shed.
RJ says he’s still waiting for a full refund.
“He had told me my shed was built, sitting in his factory and I had said I want to come see my shed,” says Bunch.
Katras invited him to the business the next day.
“There’s just no shed company there – no factory,” says Bunch.
When Fox CT showed up at the company’s address in New Britain, we found 11 sheds all behind a fence, behind lock and key, all in various stages of disrepair.
“I was rarely able to get him on the phone,” says Branford resident Sean McCulloch.
McCulloch says he paid a $1,500 deposit, was promised a custom shed in five weeks, but it didn’t show up until five months later.
“When it finally came we were kind of shocked and relieved,” says McCulloch.
But Sean seems to be the lucky one, although he said he is still waiting for a $200 referral bonus promised by Demetrios.
So Fox CT started digging for answers and found that East Hampton Police confirm the arrest of Katras in 2011. He was charged with theft by false impression and deception.
Police say he was stealing sheds from the Amish in Pennsylvania. A police sergeant said Katras was taking delivery on sheds, selling them and never paying the supplier back.
At the time, the sergeant told the River-East News Bulletin, “The Amish shed dealers are so nice, they don’t want to get paid until you sell it.”
With RJ saying he’s still owed money and reports that New England Sheds might still be operating, we went straight to Katras for answers.
Berman: “I’m Beau Berman, Fox CT News. Why did you not build the sheds to begin with?”
Katras: “We went out of business and then we just started refunding everybody. You’re saying one thing, and actually it’s not true. You haven’t contacted one customer. That’s the problem.”
Berman: “I’ve contacted two customers.”
Katras: “No, name the customers then.”
Remember Sean and RJ?
“I was supposed to get 200 bucks and I never got it,” says McCulloch.
RJ admits what he did wrong.
“I paid by check, and that was my mistake,” says Bunch.
Berman: “They gave you a deposit and they never got a shed.”
Katras: “But they got their deposit back.”
Katras is right on that point.
While the state revoked his company’s license in October, the Department of Consumer Protection says he eventually cooperated with their order to refund 19 customers a total of $33,000 for sheds they never received.
Berman: “East Hampton resident charged with stealing from Amish?”
Katras: “No, these are all false. We actually bought sheds from a person.”
Berman: “Why did you get arrested for it?”
Katras: “Because of the final place they ended up.”
Berman: “Where did they end up?”
Katras: “They ended up on our property.”
That was in 2011.
Just last week, Berlin Police confirm that Katras was arrested on insurance fraud charges after he and an employee left a torch on one of his sheds, which caught fire. He allegedly filed a false insurance claim worth more than $40,000.
Meanwhile, the BBB is investigating complaints that, while their website has been taken down, New England Sheds may still be operating online.
We found New England Sheds still advertising sheds for sale on a Google+ page.
Katras did give Mr. Bunch a partial refund, but never returned almost $1,000 of his deposit, claiming a restocking fee, yet nothing in RJ’s contract mentions such a fee.
“They’re allowed to be mad. They bought something and they didn’t get it. I agree. I would be upset also,” says Katras.
RJ says he’s not all that mad anymore, just worried for other customers.
“I went with them and it’s unfortunate that it’s still happening to people,” says Bunch.
The BBB now gives New England Sheds an “F” rating and wrote a recent warning about the company to the public.
While the state took away his company’s license, the Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner William Rubenstein says he “thanks Katras for helping the department forge a positive resolution.”
Katras says the dispute with RJ Bunch is over customer windows that were subject to a restocking fee, but Bunch says that’s not true.
Katras is due in New Britain court on Nov. 27 on the fraud charges.