Investigation: Unlicensed contractor scammed NC, SC residents out of thousands

- “When you give me that bull s----, I can smell it,” an angry Jenifer Kilfoil is heard saying.. 

In a video she secretly recorded, tensions were high as the Clover, SC mom confronted an unlicensed contractor who she says scammed her family. 

“You don't have to have a state license to do this," the contractor, Terence “Randy” Briel incorrectly tells Kilfoil in the recording. 

In South Carolina, a license is required for jobs over $5000.

"Do you have one?” Kilfoil asked.

“Personally I don't have one no I do no not,” Briel responded. 

You can’t see his face in the video, but FOX 46 found plenty of Briel's mugshots online.

His numerous arrests date back to 1995 and span North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. He served 10 months in prison in 2010, according to the North Carolina Department of Corrections, for taking money from customers but never doing the work— and it appears he’s still at it. 

“Now we just come out here and stare at this,” Kilfoil said as she showed FOX 46 investigative reporter Matt Grant the unfinished patio work done by Briel’s company, Mega Decks Unlimited.

“He kept saying, 'We're going to give you a good job,'" Kilfoil recalled. "'We're going to give you a good patio. It's going to be beautiful.'”

Kilfoil reached out to FOX 46 after she gave Mega Decks Unlimited a $2,000 deposit on a patio back in January for a job that was supposed to cost a total of $5,500. 

“They said it would be done in less than two weeks,” she told FOX 46.

Two months later there is only gravel and mounds of dirt.

“My husband was calling, texting," she said. "It went from them responding back giving excuses to nothing.”

The Better Business Bureau has received more than a hundred complaints against Briel. To avoid potential customers seeing negative reviews he has changed the name of his business more than two dozen times, according to the BBB, which has kept track of all the name changes. 

“To know I'm not the only one," said Kilfoil, "to know they've been doing this for decades is disgusting,” Kilfoil said. 

Gary Elliott from Concord, NC says he's also disgusted.

“I was very highly upset," said Elliott. "I would not recommend them to anybody."

After providing Briel with a $3,250 down payment last June for a job that was supposed to cost $6,500, he says Briel dug a hole and then left. He was supposed to build a brick patio and a stone fence.

“Dug a bank back a little bit and then just piled all the dirt up in the middle of the yard," said Elliott. "And just left it there."

Elliott eventually paid another company to finish what was never started. Elliott and Kilfoil both say they were told the job would take no more than two weeks.

On his website, Briel says they have "only satisfied clients" and promises "the best." The website displays photos of nice, finished porches under the description: "our portfolio." But FOX 46 did some digging and, using a reverse Google image search, found many of his photos appear to be lifted  from other websites.

Compare this photo used by Briel on his website to this photo created by Archadeck, a national deck building company. 

According to Archadeck, the photo is from a patio project in Pittsburgh, PA and Briel was never given permission to steal the photo and pass their work off as his own.  

On his website, an address listed as Briel's "main office" is actually a UPS mailbox. 

A different address, listed on a contract, led FOX 46 to a half-million dollar home in Waxhaw. His landlord said he evicted Briel after he missed four months' rent. 

Briel paid $3000 a month and owes $12,000, according to his landlord John Walters.

“He took me for a complete fool and took a lot of money from me,” said Walters. "I feel it's not right."

FOX 46’s Matt Grant did manage to get Briel on the phone. He hung up as soon as Grant identified himself as a reporter with FOX 46 and did not respond to other, repeated, attempts for comment.

FOX 46 showed photos of Kilfoil's yard to North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein who says his office has also received nearly a dozen complaints against Briel.

“Can your office help Jennifer and help get results for other victims out there?,” Grant asked the Attorney General.

“We hope so,” Stein said. 

Stein says his office can take Briel to court to try to recoup money for victims. He can also present any criminal evidence to local law enforcement.

“He is under investigation, " said Stein. "We are actively looking into the matter. And when we have developments in the case we'll absolutely let you know what happens next."

As for Kilfoil and her husband, their "dream deck" ended up costing more than money.

"This really makes me lose a lot of trust," said Kilfoil.

The Lancaster County Sheriff's Office has an arrest warrant out for Briel's arrest. He's accused of defrauding two customers there out of more than $10,000 combined.

The Attorney General's office has this advice on what you can do to protect yourself when hiring a contractor:

  • Before you sign a contract get three different written bids from different contractors. Check them out with the BBB and AG’s office.
  • Ask for references.
  • Make sure they are licensed.
  • Make sure you get a contract in writing including the scope of work, the agreed upon price, the timeframe for completion and any guarantees.
  • Don’t pay for work upfront. Schedule the payments over the course of the contract based on work that is performed.
  • When you pay use a credit card. You can challenge a credit card. When you send a check or pay in cash that money is sometimes gone.
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