MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) — A number of Charleston-area homeowners are out thousands of dollars after hiring one Mt. Pleasant builder.
2 years ago, they didn’t know each other, but the 5 people say because of him, plans for their dream homes turned into a nightmare.
Richard Burke is just months away from the rest of his life in his Awendaw home. The dream began more than two years ago when he bought the piece of land. He hired Moss Construction, and its owner, Josh Zollweg to build a home.
“This is it. This is the retirement home until we have to go to ‘THE’ home, I guess,” Burke said while walking around the home.
He looks forward to the day he and his family can finally settle in, but that day won’t come for a while.
Burke now faces liens and court summons from a sub-contractor he says Zollweg hired, but never paid.
“We weren’t here, we payed $140,000. We thought the process was moving forward, [Zollweg] sent us updates. One day, I came out here, and I had a treed lot. And, I was like, what’s going on here? That’s when I started to get a little suspicious about what was happening,” Burke said.
Burke had a construction loan with a local bank branch. He understood the bank was to notify him any time Zollweg took a bank draw. Also, he believed the money taken out of the account would match the amount of work finished.
Then, he said his radar went off when he got a foreclosure notice from his bank.
Three draws, which meant $175,000 was gone from the account and Burke had no idea.
He showed the I-Team draw requests with a signature on it that says his name. However, he says he was not the one to sign them.
Burke also says little work had been done to the house, and not enough to justify the draws…
“There was no house. There was no construction site, just a treed lot,” he said.
Burke says he then took more control of the money. He started receiving invoices for every draw request. However, even that still didn’t protect him from debt.
“The issue is, when the bank comes out, and says ok there’s 60 percent of the house here, 60 percent of the money taken, it equals. What they don’t verify is that the money was paid to the subcontractors that did the work,” Burke said.
Burke and four others contacted the I-Team, all with similar stories.
Mark Fish: “Basically, he took over $50,000 from us, and we have a lot with one stake in it.”
Linda Rhyne: “Right now we have 4 liens on our house and a foreclosure because of the work that was done that Josh didn’t pay.”
Darren Messer: “When that first draw left our hands, it was a whole different experience. Ever since then, it’s been a nightmare.”
Betsy Hopkins: “Between June and September they released $195,000 to him.”
They all bear an emotional burden.
“He’s really affected a lot of people. He’s ruined a lot of lives. He just can’t do this to someone else,” said Rhyne.
They all say Zollweg left jobs unfinished claiming he was out of money.
“Realistically, looking back at it, he was in debt when he signed the contract…Why he didn’t blow the whistle when he was in dire straits is just wrong,” said Messer.
Just since June, Joshua Zollweg’s name appears in more than a dozen lawsuits in Charleston County—most of them filed by subcontractors who claim they weren’t paid.
In July, Mark Fish and Darren Messer filed a report with Mt. Pleasant Police, and detectives are investigating.
Richard Burke is now paying another builder to finish his home. He says the workers come almost every day now.
When his home is finished, Burke will have paid more than a million dollars, which is almost double what the house will be worth.
He and Linda Rhyne also still face liens from Buck Lumber, a subcontractor that Zollweg hired.
Buck Lumber’s attorney responded with this statement:
“Buck Lumber provided materials used in the construction of projects by Moss Construction, and Buck Lumber has not been paid for these materials. Buck Lumber is working with all parties in an attempt to resolve this unfortunate situation…”
The I-Team reached out to Zollweg several times with no response.