Handyman shop owner disputes AG claims

CHEYENNE — Despite the defendant’s strong arguments to the contrary, the state’s attorney general said Wednesday she stands by the allegations contained in a 12-page complaint filed last month.

Luke Christensen, one of the owners of the now closed Grandpa’s Shop LLC, told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on Wednesday that the court documents filed Nov. 22 in Laramie County District Court were riddled with falsehoods and misinformation.

But in an email response to the newspaper’s inquiry, Attorney General Bridget Hill said her office stands by the information in the complaint, which alleges that Christensen’s handyman company cost several consumers thousands of dollars.

“As for the allegations in our complaint, we stand behind them, as they were developed through a year-and-a-half investigation,” Hill said.

The Tribune Eagle based reporting in Wednesday’s newspaper on the AG’s complaint. But Christensen challenged the veracity of that report, saying it was both incomplete and unfair to him.

According to court documents, Christensen and Grandpa’s Shop, the two defendants, exhibited “a common purpose of defrauding customers” and an agreement “to engage in unlawful sales practices relating to handyman and home renovation services.”

The documents also state the company left some consumer’s homes “unfinished and in a state of disrepair” and took payments from some customers, then “failed to begin work as promised.”

The stories of eight customers of Grandpa’s Shop are outlined in the complaint.

According to court documents:

One Cheyenne resident paid $19,000 to have a garage built on his property, but the garage was ultimately red-tagged by a city inspector due to lack of the “requisite specialized licensing” for electrical work.

Another Cheyenne resident paid $2,000 for a porch repair project that was never started. When she went to the Grandpa’s Shop office to find out why, she found that the office was closed. She was the only customer listed in the complaint that received a full refund for the services.

Another Cheyenne resident paid $21,488 to Christensen and Grandpa’s Shop for a basement remodel. In the middle of the project, she discovered that an employee of the defendants completed plumbing work he was “neither licensed nor sufficiently skilled” to complete. She hired another contractor to fix the plumbing damage for $15,000.

In an interview with the Tribune Eagle, Christensen vehemently denied a number of these claims.

“We have never been red-tagged for a job for not having the proper licensing,” Christensen said. “Not once.”

He said subcontractors were brought in for projects his company was not qualified to complete.

Christensen also noted that the court documents state they continued work in the city, even after the city of Cheyenne revoked the shop’s contracting license in July 2017. He said the only work he completed after that was outside city limits until Grandpa’s Shop was dissolved in November 2018.

Christensen said they closed for “many different reasons,” with financials being one of them. He declined to elaborate on other reasons for closing.

The court documents also state that the defendants left work unfinished without repaying the customers in multiple cases.

“We never just left a customer’s home. Never,” Christensen said. “We stayed until the job was done, unless they fired us or decided they wanted to complete part of it by themselves.”

The complaint seeks a maximum civil penalty of $10,000 imposed for each violation of the Wyoming Consumer Protection Act and $15,000 for each violation where a victim is over 60 years old. The suit is also asking for $83,495 in damages for the money allegedly wrongfully taken from consumers.

Christensen said someone from the Attorney General’s Office told him they “didn’t think it would matter” that the court documents had errors.

“The only reason the complaint was filed is because we came to a deal, and the complaint has to be filed in order to do this,” Christensen said.

Attorney General Hill, on the other hand, stood by the information in the report, contrary to what Christensen said he was told by someone in the AG’s office.

“There is a consent judgment with Mr. Christensen that was filed with the court, which he signed,” Hill said. “The terms of that are in the court record. This may be what Mr. Christensen is referring to when he says that he has a ‘deal’ with the Attorney General’s Office.”

A consent judgment is a court order issued by a judge that all parties agree to. According to Bankrate, this type of judgment is often used when someone has been sued for a debt, but is unable to pay, and, in many cases, the defendant also agrees to a repayment plan or forbearance to pay the debt at some point in the future.

“We have asked the Court to confirm that Consent Judgment, which is required,” Hill said.

Once it is approved by the court, the judgment becomes legally binding.

“This is all stuff that’s being blown way out of proportion and made to look like we’re trying to defraud our customers,” Christensen said. “As a matter of fact, we are more than willing to refund the folks that we owe money, and we are doing that.”