Banned Contractor Darrell Helms Resurfaces As Top Choice Remodeling And Waterproofing

  
     
BBB is warning consumers that Darrell Helms, a contractor banned from the business by a St. Louis judge, has opened Top Choice Remodeling & Waterproofing.
July 14, 2014

Darrell Helms
Helms

St. Louis, Mo., July 14, 2014 – St. Louis area homeowners are continuing to file complaints with Better Business Bureau (BBB) against Darrell A. Helms and his company, Top Choice Remodeling & Waterproofing, more than three years after a judge permanently barred Helms from owning or managing a contracting business in Missouri.

“They can’t stop me from practicing business,” Helms said. “This is what I do; I’m a contractor. This is all I know.”

Helms also acknowledged that he has not paid more than $50,000 in court-ordered restitution to 14 consumers who claim Helms defrauded them over the past 15 years.

“I don’t owe any restitution,” Helms said. “Those people (consumers) are probably dead.” Top Choice has an “F” rating with BBB, the lowest possible.

BBB and law enforcement authorities have pursued Helms and several of his past contracting companies for years, including Helms Construction, Midwest Remodeling and H & B Remodeling. Most recently, Helms has operated under the name Top Choice Remodeling & Waterproofing. He has reported his address as 4817 Farlin Avenue, St. Louis.

Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said Helms’ past problems should alert consumers to be wary of Helms and his businesses.

Consumer Mary Moor shows a damaged ceiling

Mary Moore of St. Louis points to the damaged ceiling in her house, where Darrell Helms supposedly fixed her roof.

“For more than a decade, Mr. Helms’ name has been synonymous with bad business practices,” Corey said

“Consumers continue to recount horror stories of work that was paid for but never started, substandard construction and a refusal to issue refunds,” Corey said.

In July 2007, BBB issued an alert on Helms and H & B Remodeling. The alert detailed consumer complaints ranging from shoddy roofing work to unfinished home repairs. A year later, then-Attorney General Jay Nixon sued Helms for defrauding multiple consumers across the St. Louis region.

In May 2011, a St. Louis court judge permanently banned Helms from any ownership or management involvement in any contracting or remodeling company in Missouri.  The judgment also ordered Helms to pay $23,000 in penalties to the state and about $50,000 in restitution to victims. The individual restitution amounts ranged from $300 to $9,800.

One of the victims named in the judgment, a consumer from St. Louis, said last week that he has never received any of the $3,000 in restitution ordered by the court. The man said he paid Helms in March 2010 for concrete work that was never done. “Somebody needs to put him out of business,” the man said.

Another St. Louis consumer said she has not received any of the $2,800 in court-ordered restitution. The woman said that a shoddy roof replacement job caused leaks that led to extensive damage to the interior of her home.  “It was bad,” she said.  “Very bad.”

In a more recent case, a 78-year-old St. Louis homeowner said she has been trying for two years to get a $3,900 refund from Helms after paying Top Choice Remodeling & Waterproofing to replace her roof. She said that almost immediately after the job was done, severe leaks developed throughout the home, and the woman had an inspector with her insurance company look at the workmanship.  She said the inspector told her that little, if any, significant work had been done.

“He kept promising and promising,” she said of Helms. “When you treat people right, you think that they are going to treat you right.”

Helms said that at the time the attorney general’s lawsuit was filed, he was serving prison time for a drug conviction. He blamed much of his past trouble on his drug involvement and on an overzealous probation officer who he said was “witch hunting.

“This probation officer thought I was taking people’s money and running off,” he said.  “That was not the case.”

Despite some recent complaints, Helms said his problems are behind him.  “I don’t want to go back to jail.  I’m trying to correct mysel 

BBB offers the following advice for consumers dealing with roofers or other contractors:

  • Beware of possible scams. Watch out for contractors in unmarked trucks or for companies requiring advance payment. Don’t succumb to high-pressure techniques, such as notices that the price is good for one day only.
  • Try to verify the business’s true identity. Get a business card and a physical location of the company.  It is always better to deal with well-established businesses.
  • Ask for references. Make sure the company that wants your business has satisfied other customers.
  • Make sure you get a written contract in advance of approving any work. Read it thoroughly and make sure you understand and agree to everything before signing it.
  • Be sure the contract includes a start date and a completion date for the work to be performed.
  • Do not be coerced into paying for work that you did not approve. If you feel pressured or if a contractor will not leave your home when asked, contact police.
  • Do not pay the full amount in advance of the work being completed. 
  • Research the business and owner or owners carefully before making a purchase. Check out the company’s BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.

Contacts (News media only): Michelle L. Corey, President and CEO, (314) 645-0606, mcorey@stlouisbbb.org; Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, (314) 584-6743 or (314) 681-4719 (cell), communications@stlouisbbb.org; or Bill Smith, Investigator, (314) 584-6727, tpc1@stlouisbbb.org

About BBB

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