CHICAGO (CBS) — Two people accused of taking money from more than 100 homeowners and then failing to do the job as promised have not been charged with any related crimes.
Their alleged victims want to know why. CBS 2’s Dave Savini investigated.
Shel St. Clare and Richard Rinaolo are accused of running multiple operations that have ripped off homeowners in Illinois and other states. Police say 100 victims lost $100,000 in Cook County alone, yet St. Clare and Rinaolo are not being criminally prosecuted.
CBS 2 tracked down the pair and tried to ask them about the allegations. Rinaolo would not comment, but St. Clare said, “Name some people who have questions.”
Alex Schaeffel is one. In 2009, she hired St. Clare’s company, Fidelity Reconstruction, to fix her hail-damaged roof. She says she paid more than $8,500 and no work was done.
“They started handing me off to one person, to another person, to another person,” Schaeffel says.
Then the business shut down, she says. Because Schaeffel could not recover the insurance money she had paid the company, she had to dip into her retirement money to finally repair her damaged roof.
Another place where St. Clare and her company took money and never did any work is the Solid Rock Church in Melrose Park. Church officials gave them $34,000, and no work was done.
Cook County Sheriff’s Detective Brandon duCray investigated St. Clare, Rinaolo and their operation. He says they avoided prosecution by doing some of the contracted work for some of the homeowners. That way, it appeared to be a business dispute.
“We all tried to get something done,” duCray said. “But, I don’t know of anybody who’s actually prosecuted them on it yet.”
He said there were victims who had no work done at all and that St. Clare’s operation took their money, then later declared bankruptcy.
When Savini tried to get the other side of the story, St. Clare insisted she did nothing wrong.
“You should be ashamed of yourself,” she told him.
Detective duCray said the pair’s troubles extend well beyond Cook County. He said he is getting calls from law enforcement officials “all over the nation.”
This summer, police raided St. Clare’s Tennessee operation. There is a cease-and-desist order against her Louisiana operation, and there have been complaints in Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri.
St. Clare disagreed she has had trouble in many states. CBS 2 caught up with her and Rinaolo at the Cook County courthouse, where they are facing their only criminal charges, for allegedly breaking into two Winnetka homes and stealing from them
Mary Kirchhoefer owns one of the homes.
“They packed up our house. They took every bit of silver, jewelry, every painting in the house,” she says.
She and the other homeowner, Nick Neubauer, say they are frustrated the pair seem to evade prosecution.
“The system is working awfully slowly,” Neubauer says. “And for what I could see, the odds are with the criminal.”
Schaeffel showed CBS 2 what she did get from Fidelity Reconstruction: a lawn sign to advertise the company.
“This is our $8,500 sign that we keep in our garage,” she says. “We call it a lesson learned.”
Last year, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office won a $125,000 judgment against St. Clare, Rinaolo and their company. Some of that money was supposed to go to victims as restitution. Not a single dime has been paid.
The attorney general offers tips to stay safe from contractor fraud.