ELBERT COUNTY, Colo. — On the wind-blown Eastern Plains in Elbert County, the Melnyk family never planned to live long-term in an RV.
"We like it out here because it's peaceful," said Amanda Melnyk, who added it has been two years since a house fire displaced her family.
"I called 911, but all I could do was just watch the house burn," she said.
Melnyk said her insurance agent connected them to a company called Damage Restorations to help them rebuild their home. Melnyk hired the company in the summer of 2021.
With their insurance money, she paid the company and a man who called himself Blake Brown about $300,000 in all.
The company started the job, working sporadically for the past two years, demolishing the burned-out home and finishing most of the exterior before disappearing with the final $88,000 payment.
"We bought the RV because we have animals with the understanding that it would only take a year. And here we are two years later and still living in this RV," said Melnyk. "We can't live in our home. It's only 65% finished."
It turns out the person Melnyk met with was not named Blake Brown, but Randall Blake Copeland, a man who was making headlines in Indiana. Police records obtained by Contact Denver7 show Copland was arrested for "a string of construction frauds," most of which came to light in 2019.
He's faced multiple charges and is currently in the Boone County jail until next month as he serves out a sentence. Once released, he is slated to be picked up by Vermillion County in Indiana to serve time there, according to a Boone County spokesperson.
But while he wasn't dealing with legal issues in Indiana, documents show that he was searching for new clients in Colorado.
Over the last two years, he has been in jail off and on in Indiana on various cases, but while he was out, documents show he was finding new clients in Colorado.
Detectives in Castle Rock, Arapahoe County and Elbert County have confirmed they are investigating Copeland and the company and whether others are involved.
Melnyk's story sounds very familiar to Ashley and Alex Schultz. They paid Damage Restorations roughly $70,000 after their home flooded, but a job that was supposed to take a week has thousands of dollars in work unfinished after a year and a half.
"He was very good at like that sweet southern charm. That's what pulled the wool right over my eyes," Ashley Shultz said of Copeland. "The pattern would be he would disappear for weeks, then come in and just work, work, work, work, and then disappear for weeks."
Damage Restorations did not respond to phone calls or emails seeking a response. A door knock to the listed address, a house, was answered by a man who said he was a dog sitter and was dealing with the fallout of customers showing up to seek refunds.
While Melnyk waits for the criminal investigations, her home is unlivable. She said they are running out of money and out of time.
Her teenage son moved out of the RV to live with a friend until the house is finished.
"There's not going to be a house. How am I supposed to tell [my children] that? There's just not that money," Melnyk said. "I mean, we have a house. We just need it done."
Contact Denver7 has several tips to help consumers protect themselves from a criminal contractor:
- Don't just trust Google reviews, check online for red flags and patterns.
- Find out how long the company has been in business. The Secretary of State shows Damage Restorations started in 2021.
- Check for yourself if they're licensed in your country (Damage Restorations is not licensed in Arapahoe County)
- Don't just ask for references — really talk to other customers.
- Withhold the final payment until the job is completely finished and you've done a full walk-through.
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