ELBERT COUNTY, Colorado — A Colorado family says they are waiting for a contractor to pay back thousands of dollars, but are losing hope.
“That’s not how you do it. That’s just not how you treat other people,” Eryn told Christine while rummaging through a stack of papers.
In August 2021, an accidental fire destroyed the barn she was using for her conversion business. Shortly thereafter, she began soliciting bids to rebuild the barn.
“The ones we narrowed it down to, it really came down to a time frame for us,” Christine said. “So when I look at the process, Steel Building Manufacturing offered the moon, the stars and all sorts of things.”
According to the Secretary of State’s website, the company is registered to Donald Steinke.
Christine said in December 2021 she paid Steinke a $17,000 down payment, but as of March 2022 she had not received any design plans. As of May, a concrete base for the project hadn’t been poured, so she hired someone herself.
Over time, Christine said Steinke repeatedly stated that the steel for the project was behind schedule.
“He just kept pushing and said the steel was backordered. He said: “It has been ordered. I don’t have an update. We’ll get you some information.” Or “let me check” was generally his reaction to things,” she said.
Christine said that as of June – six months after the deposit was paid – “little to no work” had been done on the project.
“Ultimately, my husband called the actual steel company,” she said.
According to Christine, the steelmaker informed the couple that there were no problems in the supply chain, but that there had been a number of delays in correspondence with Steinke. She said that after making the decision to cancel the project altogether, the steelmaker committed to refunding the $13,000 it received from Steinke.
“[The check] was mailed to Steinke on June 22,” Christine said, flipping through documents on the situation. “I’m confident he’ll do the right thing, but given his track record and history, I absolutely highly doubt it.
“His reply on July 7 was, ‘My bank withheld it. You get your money when I have it.”
Christine said the steelmaker sent her a record proving the check was processed on July 5.
“That’s not how you do it. That’s just not how you treat other people,” she said.
‘That’s not how you work’: Colorado contractors are accused of leaving trails of unfinished projects
Court records show that more than a dozen civil lawsuits have been filed against Steinke, dating back to 2000.
“We probably get calls from this company three to six times a year,” said Todd Collins, a civil litigation attorney in Elizabeth, Colorado.
Collins said he has represented several clients in civil lawsuits against Steel Building Manufacturing.
“It’s always the same story. The story is, you know, “I put a deposit on a steel building with this company and I can’t get this guy to call me back. And I tried to cancel my contract and he won’t give me my money back,” Collins said.
In a complaint he filed last fall, Collins said his client did not receive some of the money owed to him until police were called.
“That seems to be the pattern. If you contact law enforcement and law enforcement gets involved, you get your bail back,” the attorney said. “Or if you file a case, you get your deposit back.”
Collins said many of those who have made allegations against Steel Building Manufacturing can no longer afford the legal fees.
“Probably 90% of those cases don’t go forward because of a lack of litigation funding,” he said. “The amounts we’re dealing with are just enough for the company to fly under the radar, so to speak. We usually see these buildings, these contracts for about $29,000 to $55,000, maybe $60,000 on the high end. And if you file a lawsuit about someone taking your money or deposit and refusing to return it, legal fees will exceed that deposit. It’s unfair, but it’s just the fact that the legal fees will exceed the down payment, and most people don’t have the money to afford it.”
According to Collins, one man faced particularly difficult circumstances after hiring the company.
“Our clients were forced to sell the land they wanted to build their new home on,” he said. “I think the attorney general’s office will need to get even more involved than they already have.”
Denver7 emailed and called Donald Steinke of Steel Building Manufacturing. He replied: “The refund is expected to be completed by September 12.”
In July, Elbert County Judge Gary Michael Kramer ruled in favor of a complaint filed by Colorado Assistant Attorney General John Roberts. The complaint alleged that Steinke had improperly affixed professional engineering seals to plans without the engineers knowing in advance that their seals had been used.
A spokesman for the Colorado Attorney General’s office only confirmed to Denver7 that it investigates and prosecutes civil and criminal contractor fraud.
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