North Texas

North Texas Senior Says Contractor Ran Off With $2,100

"He's a crook. He took advantage of me," said Ferrari. "He should be in jail."

A 91-year-old North Texas woman says she was ripped off by a shady contractor.

Irene Ferrari, 91, hired James Michael Winkler back in 2016 to upgrade her fireplace and her floors. But nearly two years later, she says he still owes her more than $2,000.

"He said no problem. I can do it," said Ferrari.

Ferrari's daughter, Tina, said Winkler told them he could start the project the second week of December. They said he signed an invoice and told them he needed half of the money up front, which came out to $2,300.

But a few days before the start date, she said she got this text from Winkler saying his tools were stolen.

Ferrari said she started getting nervous, so she asked him to send her a completed invoice.

But she said she never got it.

"I said, ya know, this is not working out for us. Let's part ways. Give us our money back. You go your way. We'll go our way. Thank you very much," she explained.

In a text, Winkler agreed to give the money back and said, "please don't contact me anymore."

But she said months went by and they didn't get a dime.

Ferrari and her daughter went to small claims court and a judge ruled in their favor, ordering Winkler to pay the $2,300 he owed.

But they said that didn't work either. They were told he didn't have assets from which they could collect, and he never paid up.

"He's a crook. He's a crook. He took advantage of me," said Ferrari. "He should be in jail."

The ladies filed a police report with the North Richland Hills Police Department. They said a detective followed up with them and called the contractor on their behalf.

A few months later, Winkler mailed them two checks totaling $200. But as for the remaining $2,100, he said he didn't have it.

So, the ladies called the NBC 5 Responds team. 

Winkler declined to talk on camera, but he did speak with us over the phone.

He said he was robbed, and never said he wouldn't pay them back, he just "doesn't have the money today."

He told us he's a small business and is still taking jobs.

He said it doesn't matter if she's 30 years old or 90 years old; bottom line: he doesn't have it.

"I want him to be caught," said Ferrari. "I'm not going to be satisfied until I get my money."

We reached out to the North Richland Hills Police Department, and here's what they had to say:

"While the case was initially determined to be a civil matter and closed unfounded, the criminal investigations division is currently reevaluating the case to explore any potential criminal charges….We will work with our crime victim's assistance coordinator to determine if any other forms of relief may be available."

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