SURFSIDE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Multiple residents in Surfside Beach are searching for answers and money after months of working with a local contractor.
In September, Jacqueline Mountain and her sister Sara Bennett reached out to a local contractor to make repairs to their mother’s house. Mountain said their mother had just died and they wanted to take care of her legacy.
The sisters found J&S Home Improvements on Craigslist and hired the company to repair their steps.
After completion of the project, they contracted with the owner James Fitzpatrick to buy materials for their leaking roof.
“We wait a while and he comes over again and says there is a hold up on the roof,” Mountain recalled. “But he says in the meantime he can fix our countertops and our sink.”
In total, the pair said they paid more than $11,000 for materials for the kitchen, roof and the front porch.
Mountain says after weeks of waiting, all they had from Fitzpatrick was excuses.
“Things weren’t cut right; the steel wasn’t cut right, and the granite was cut wrong,” she said.
However, the sisters said they never saw any of the materials and he never showed up to do work.
A police report filed with the Surfside Beach Police Department outlines these incidents.
In the report from October, Fitzpatrick told police he was backed up on work from the recent storm and that he would refund the money, a promise he also made in a text to Mountain.
As of February 4, Mountain said she still has not received a refund.
Fitzpatrick told WMBF that this incident was a “huge misunderstanding.”
However, the sisters are not the only ones owed money from Fitzpatrick.
A police report filed with Horry County police in December revealed a similar incident. A Rosewood resident told police Fitzpatrick owed him more than $3,000 for work on his floors and door trim. The report stated Fitzpatrick paid back $250 and told police he’d pay the rest back “as soon as he possibly can.”
Court records from the Horry County Public Index revealed Fitzpatrick owes more than $5,000 to Benito Muto for a judgement from October. Muto said he still has not been repaid.
Muto runs Surfside Pizza and said he contracted Fitzpatrick to build an addition on the back of his business. Muto said Fitzpatrick bought cement and dug out the back but kept making excuses. He said the two parted ways after months of unfinished work.
Fitzpatrick said he didn’t know about the court date so didn’t show up. He told WMBF that Muto will be paid back soon.
Tina Cicenia also lives in Surfside and said Fitzpatrick was recommended to her by a family friend, so she trusted him.
Cicenia hired him to fix her living room floor, but soon found out she had water damage so she hired him to help with more work.
“He said he would do everything, he would take it up, he would fix the boards underneath, he would clean it,” Cicenia explained. “Because I was under pressure and my house was carrying mold and all that, I decided to hire him.”
She said he told her he had a business license.
Horry County and Surfside Beach report they have no record of licenses under Fitzpatrick or J&S Improvements.
“Yes, we’re to blame because we should have looked it up, but I thought through family I would be safe,” she said looking back.
Cicenia said five months later the job was still not done and the work Fitzpatrick was doing was damaging her house.
“It wasn’t being done right and he had to stop and fix it and stop and fix it,” she said. “The walls are all bumpy. The floors are all bumpy … He put the cabinets in and he didn’t put them in straight, so they had to be refixed again.”
Cicenia said the floors became uneven and cracks formed throughout the house. She finally decided to let him go.
“I am out possibly $10,000 for work that he actually really did not do correctly,” Cicenia said.
When questioned about this work, Fitzpatrick claimed it was other workers and the mold removal that dragged the project out, not him. He also said part of the money he owes Cicenia is for a loan she gave him – a loan she thought was for work.
“I want him stopped,” Cicenia said. “He continues to keep doing this and apparently the police can’t stop him, nobody can stop him, they say go to court and I did go to court and know it’s up to me.”
Fitzpatrick was already arrested twice in the last year, according to the Horry County Sheriff’s Office.
The first was last February for a fugitive incident. Shortly after, Fitzpatrick was placed on probation felony supervision for renting a vehicle in 2015 with the intent to defraud in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.
He was arrested again in Horry County for breach of trust with fraudulent intent in late October 2018.
Currently, Fitzpatrick has a pending case involving a breach of trust with fraudulent intent in Horry County.
Fitzpatrick said J&S Home Improvements is closed. He said he is taking care of the money owed.
As for the women, they said they have not been refunded and have paid more money to do the work Fitzpatrick was initially contracted to do.
“I’m actually just hurt that this exists in this community, in any community that somebody would want to do this to people,” Mountain said.