Waxhaw contractor tops Dirty Half Dozen

Jul. 22, 2014 @ 05:01 PM

A Waxhaw-based contractor with a history of incomplete work was at the top of the Better Business Bureau of the South Piedmont’s 2014 Midyear Dirty Half-Dozen list.

Since 2000, the BBB has received 70 complaints about Randy Briel from homeowners who hired him for work he started and never finished, BBB South Piedmont Vice President of Communications Janet Hart said. In 2014, six people complained he never finished the work agreed to in contracts.

“I called and spoke to all the victims. They paid him anywhere from $500 to $6,800 for home improvement jobs he never did,” Hart said.

Most jobs he takes on are landscaping or outdoor work, but recently a family hired him to renovate the interior of their house.

“He came and did a little work. The family paid him in full,” Hart said. “He left and never came back.”

Now the inside of the family’s home is gutted and they cannot afford to pay someone else to complete renovations, Hart said.

Despite criminal fraud convictions in three states and 40 civil lawsuits, Briel continues business in the Charlotte area because he changes the name of his business often. Some have been variations of his full name — Terrance Randolph Briel. He has done business under Pro Group and Puddles & Mud in the recent past, Hart said.

“He’s changed the business name 21 times,” she said. “Pretty much he changes the name when his reputation begins to catch up with the business. That way when someone tries to search for his company, they can’t find anything.”

Changing a business name multiple times is legal. He does not hold a contractor’s license because most projects he accepts are small and does not require any certification.  

Though he now says he has recently responded to BBB claims, he has not, Hart said. Though most go unanswered, Briel has responded to a few complaints in the past.

“It’s been a long process with Randy with some of these because he’s had a lot of civil judgements and criminal charges he’s had to address,” Hart said.

Even when customers win legal battles against Briel, there is no way to collect the money from him, she said.

When reached by phone, Briel said he is working on complaints and contacted the BBB last week to respond to customer concerns. He also said he had resolved older complaints and would finish the work for more recent customers. He said he was aware of the BBB list and had been contacted by the media this past week.

“I can’t change people’s opinions,” Briel said when asked to comment on allegations of fraud. “I’m just going to fix what I need to fix and move on.”

He was last arrested in Union County on June 4 on charges of obtaining property under false pretenses.

People like Briel are not uncommon in the home improvement field, Hart said. No license is required for small jobs like painting or landscaping. Some people get work simply because they advertise. But homeowners must be careful who they allow to come into their home.

“You’re going to be letting this person come into your home around your family,” Hart said. “They might be taking note of when you go to work or when your husband comes home or learning about your children. You have to know who these people are and that you can trust them in your home.”

A little homework can save homeowners headaches. Hart suggests asking for a contractor’s license number if they have one. Avoid hiring someone who leaves fliers in your mailbox. Instead, look for companies that have been in business in your community for years.

Instead of relying on a contractor’s business card to tell you the whole story, ask for more information.

“If they’re in your home talking to you about a project, tell them you like to check the identification of people working in and around your home. Ask to see their driver’s license,” Hart said. “If they show you, note their name and do an internet search when they’re gone. If they make some excuse like they left their identification at home or in the truck, consider that a red flag.”

There are plenty of consumer protection websites with information on specific companies. BBB maintains lists of businesses in good and poor standing with the organization.

And if you hire someone who delivers low-quality work or no work at all, report them. The BBB submits customer complaints to businesses for response. The N.C. Attorney General’s office and the Union County Sheriff’s Office are also resources in the case of fraud or other criminal behavior.  

Contact the Better Business Bureau of the South Piedmont at 704-972-8611 or visit bbb.org/charlotte for more information.