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Maumee, Holland families say contractor took money but never finished work

Two local families say they've paid thousands of dollars to a south Toledo contractor for work never completed.

LUCAS COUNTY, Ohio — When longtime Georgia resident Candice Gordon moved back to northwest Ohio last year to be closer to her family, she and her husband spent months looking for a home before they found one they loved. But there were a couple of problems.

“It didn’t have a fence, and we have an autistic daughter," Gordon said.

Her 10-year-old daughter, Allie, has autism and is nonverbal. The family was concerned for her safety when they saw there was a creek in their new Holland home's backyard. 

They decided to have a fence built to keep her safe and started looking for a contractor. In November, they found Danny Baran, a south Toledo resident and owner of Baran’s Fences and Decks, on the Nextdoor app.

“When we first started off, he absolutely seemed like a 1000 percent type, ya know, just all-around decent guy," Gordon said.

Baran presented them with a written estimate of $3,200 and agreed to start the project on Dec. 5. He said he would be finished no later than Dec. 8. Baran started on time as promised, but soon the deadline passed and the job wasn’t completed.

“And a three-day time period turned into this excuse, that excuse, this excuse, that excuse," Gordon said.

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First, it was bad weather. Then, on Dec. 20,  Baran said he was sick with COVID-19. Then, on Jan. 3, he didn’t show up at all.

Baran texted Gordon, who said that his mother was gravely ill.

“They had to put his mom in a hospice is what he told me at the time, which prevented him from coming out to do the work that day," Gordon said. "They realized she wasn’t gonna make it, so he had to postpone the work another day."

When Baran said his mother passed only days later, Gordon offered him time to mourn.

“We totally understood all of that, no problem," she said. "We had absolutely no issues with Danny until the very end of- the tail end of what was going on."

But January went by and Baran still didn’t return to the job site. The materials for the fence had now been sitting on the Gordons' lawn for months. At this point, the Holland Homeowner’s Association was hitting them with charges, and $3000 dollars of their materials were missing.

Gordon said she later received a call from their local Lowe's hardware store. The store told her Baran was trying to return the materials for cash.

“His story was he was basically going to rob Peter to pay Paul," she said. "To basically use the materials he stole from us to do another job, and then once he got paid for that job then his story was he was going to come finish our job and then pay us for what he owed us back. Absolutely do not believe that’s what his plan was."

By mid-March, the Gordons set out on their own to finish the fence, spending thousands of dollars more. And Gordon said the sections Baran had installed are crooked, raised, and shoddily done.

Worst of all, 11 Investigates could see that there’s still a gap large enough for the Gordons' daughter to fit through right next to the creek. 

“Pretty much everything we paid Danny to do he did not do, and he stiffed us, scammed us, and we’re furious," Gordon said.

Gordon went back to the Nextdoor app to warn others to stay away from Baran, only to find that someone else had already beaten her to it.

That person was Victoria Semones, of Maumee, whose story shares many similarities to the Gordons'. But there was one major difference between her experience and the Gordons'. Semones said Baran never even started.

“He never contacted us again, we actually contacted him around Feb. 9, I think, and from there it was just all excuses," Semones said.

While their yard remained bare, they heard the very same excuses from Danny that Gordon did. However, unlike Gordon, Semones was quick to grow suspicious and started doing digging of her own.

“Through talking to all of them, everyone’s story seemed very similar," Semones said. "So they also have documentation, texts, or messages from him stating the day his mom passed away, and they’re all different dates, they’re all different scenarios."

For instance, Victoria Semones' husband, John, received a text from Baran on March 2, claiming that his mother had passed. That was a full two months after a similar text was sent to Gordon.

Feeling they were left with no other option, Semones decided to take the case to Maumee's small claims court on Tuesday. Semones texted 11 Investigates Thursday, saying that Baran was a no-show. The court has scheduled a second appearance on July 26.

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“We’re not gonna get our money back, but if we can stop this from happening to other people, that’s what I need," Semones said.

11 Investigates attempted to contact Baran to hear his side of the story. According to Baran, he’s the victim in this scenario, and he believes his past customers are running a smear campaign.

Baran initially said he would be open to talking to 11 Investigates on camera, but later stopped responding to calls and texts.

11 Investigates reached out again offering him another chance to speak, and he said he would want to tell his side, but only after the court case is resolved.

For these former customers, the lawsuit is a chance to get justice.

“I obviously want to see him pay back everything he’s taken from us, what he’s taken from everybody else," Gordon said. "I just want him to get his due justice, I want karma to kick him in the butt."

If you have a tip our 11 Investigates team should look into, you can email us directly at 11investigates@wtol.com

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