View Full Version : Big project ripoff

11-21-2007, 12:30 AM
I have ultimately been working for a subcontractor for the past month, and after I was done with my part of the project he said he would send me a check "overnight". However, it has already been over a week and I have not received anything. During the past week, all my attempts at calling him got me the answering machine. This subcontractor is somebody I worked with before, however, I am afraid for the worst. I also really need the money by the end of the month, which is a little more than one thousand. How can I get my money?

11-21-2007, 12:42 AM
if possible, talk to him personally. Was there any contract? or just a verbal agreement to pay.


11-21-2007, 06:20 AM
The thing is, I met him on craigslist. He is from chicago and im from la, and since it was a person that i have worked with before then i didn't think too much of making a contract.

11-21-2007, 10:35 AM
Do you have the ability to pull the work - or even invoice the person the subcontractor was working for?
Have you tried emailing him? It may just be incredibly unfortunate that every time you call you get the answering machine rather than call-screening. Its also possible your check got lost in the mail - it does happen.

11-21-2007, 04:32 PM
I agree with Nancy. Additionally, if you're asking for payment during the week of Thanksgiving, he may just not be around. Maybe he's spending the week with family. I would try to keep cool, unless this guy has been blowing you off for over 30 days, there are probably reasons for his lack of contact.

Although I personally get frustrated when people go on vacation without at least the courtesy of telling me they won't be available, it does happen.

As far as the contract issue, always get something in writing. It's nothing personal, just business. It doesn't have to be a 12 page contract chocked full of legalese mumbo-jumbo, but you should have some type of agreement in place.

11-21-2007, 06:00 PM
I hope this turns out well for you, but if it doesn't, you should sue him on Judge Judy. I'd watch.

11-21-2007, 09:57 PM
Is there a way for me to get my money lawfully without a contract?

11-21-2007, 10:53 PM
Is there a way for me to get my money lawfully without a contract?
That would involve suing him. Depending on the amount in question, you may be able to sue him in District Court (Justice of the Peace) or may be required to sue him in Small Claims Court. The threshold amounts vary from state to state (and even the availability of District Court varies). If you can sue in District Court, you can typically do so without a lawyer, if you must go to Small Claims Court, you would generally need an attorney. Whether or not you can sue for your attorney's fees also varies from state to state.

The complication without a contract is that you would have to sue him in the courts in his jurisdiction, meaning you'd have to travel to Chicago.

Even if you win, however, you are not guaranteed to get your money. Again, these rules vary from state to state, but, generally speaking, a judgment in your favor grants you the right to take further action. What actions are possible would also vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but in any event would require you to take further action.

I'm sorry to say, but unless you're talking about a large sum of money, the costs, time and effort involved are likely not worth it.

11-30-2007, 12:08 AM
I just talked to him today, and yes, he is definitely avoiding me. I managed to get a hold of him today after more than 2 weeks, and on the first call he hanged up. On the second call, he said that because of me, he lost a client, and did not give me a chance to tell him I was suing him. I guess this is because I sent an e-mail to the client saying that I was the site builder, etc... and he probably passed off as the designer himself.

Anyways, I am choosing to sue him in small claims court in Chicago, Illinois. He owes me more than one thousand dollars for the work I have done for him over the past months. Although I never had a contract, I kept a record of all his e-mails since I started working for him, and I also have source copies of the websites that I have built for him (which are live on the internet), his work phone number, and his ftp accounts. Is that enough to win in court?

Where could I find out court information regarding the state of Illinois?
Any advice that could help would be greatly appreciated.

11-30-2007, 01:11 AM
Based on my experiences (in Pennsylvania), that level of documentation is not bad. You would need to provide a valid address for him, however. A phone number is not enough since the courts deal with matters in writing. Typically, since this is a business deal, a business address would suffice, as long as it is his business and not an employers.

If he had paid you any money, you should be prepared to discuss that in court as well, with records. You'll need to show what the payments were for, and that the amount owed is in addition to the payments he made. If you have copies of checks he sent or records of banks used, etc - this would be a big plus.

In short, any and all relevant documentation you have can be important. Be sure to compile it organized in such a way as you can easily produce any document the court might ask for. Also, it's a good idea to have extra copies on hand, as the court may well ask to see the documentation and to allow the defendant to view it as well.

I would advise being very cautious about what you say or put in writing about him, either to his clients, associates or public places (such as this forum). You wouldn't want to expose yourself to a counter-suit for slander or libel. Aside from putting you on the defensive, it would also hurt your case against him.

You should be able to get information on the courts directly from the Small Claims Court itself, and quite possibly on the internet. The court will be able to advise you as to their procedures, but they will not be able to offer any legal advise. In PA, all necessary information and even forms, etc are available online for many court-related matters. If in doubt, ask the court. It's far better to impose yourself on the court staff (within reason) than it is to waste a judge's time.

Best of luck.

11-30-2007, 06:55 AM
Its better to record all your telephonic conversation... a minor mistake or acceptance of what he did will **** him up. Don't get frustrated ... be normal and say ... you've been trying to reach him since last 4-5 weeks. If this is all about money we can discuss about it but why are you avoiding me ... obviously he is going to say something related to it ... thats enough... even he hangs up you can produce the recorded audio as evidence then he got no way to escape. [:)]

hth :thumbsup:


11-30-2007, 07:06 AM
Thank you for the advice PappaJohn, I took in account the fact that slander/libel could work against me, so I edited the post I made earlier.
Again, thank you very much for the advice, I think I should be able to win this case. I just pray that i don't lose the case, because then I would probably waste money on plane tickets and time...

11-30-2007, 11:51 AM
Did you contact his client *before* he started avoiding you? If so, that might work against you. There's a possibility he could try to counter-sue for loss of business.

ralph l mayo
11-30-2007, 04:39 PM
re: saeed's advice, If you record your calls with him the first words out of your mouth have to be 'this conversation is being recorded' because in California it is illegal to record without both parties' knowledge. There's a whole other legal can of worms if the recordings are going to be used as evidence; and you should probably either speak to a lawyer or forget about recording the calls.

12-01-2007, 02:32 AM
Thanks to everyone for their input.
I am learning that there are many specific laws and restrictions that I must take in account. Like what you said ralph | mayo, I didn't know that phone call recording law existed.

However, I am in financial need right now, and since I depended my paycheck on the contractor, I am going to put full effort into getting my money. Due to this, I don't think I could afford a lawyer for this case. And the way I see it, this contractor has clearly wronged me, and I alone can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that this person has wronged me.

As for that possibility, NancyJ, I contacted his client after more than two weeks since he began avoiding me. I think that I have a right to do this due to my preoccupation about the contractor. During my entire time working with him, he never told me anything regarding "not directly contacting his clients".

12-01-2007, 03:29 AM
Understand that this is not going to be a quick process.

First, you'll have to file your suit in court. Most likely, you will not be given a court date at the time you file the suit. A court date will be set after the defendant (and his attorney, if he has one) has been notified. The court date will be for some future date, but even once you've been given a court date it may change. The court date can change at either the discretion of the court or the reasonable request of either party.

At the hearing for your suit, you may or may not be notified of the decision of the judge (most likely not). The judge will consider the arguments of both sides and render his decision at a future date - typically within a day or two. You will then be notified by mail of the decision. Assuming you win, the defendant will have a period of time to appeal, during which no action can be taken against him. The appeal period varies but is likely on the order of 30 days. After the appeal period lapses, any collection action can begin. It is also likely that you will have to initiate the collection action. What actions are available varies widely, so you'd have to discuss this with the court.

Even if the judge finds in your favor, it doesn't mean that he will find for the amount you are seeking. The judge has discretion in the amount of the award. If he feels that some arguments made by the defendant are valid, he could award you an amount less than what you are seeking.

And the way I see it, this contractor has clearly wronged me, and I alone can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that this person has wronged me.
Maybe so. However, you will be at a very serious disadvantage if the defendant hires an attorney. The legal system is built on a complicated system of rules and procedures. Your case could easily be dismissed simply for failing to follow the smallest procedural detail (filing the wrong form, filling out a form incorrectly or incompletely, filing a form with too few copies, and all sorts of minutiae). In fact, a procedural fault could result in your case being dismissed before it even gets to trial. Lawyers love these little details

Also, be sure to check, in advance, of all court costs, filing fees and related expenses. There may be costs/fees to execute on a judgment that are in addition to the court costs. Also check if any of these can be added to the judgment. If you cannot recoup these fees from the defendant (there are jurisdictions where you cannot) then these will be your responsibility and will effectively reduce the amount of the judgment you receive.

Again, I'm sorry to say, but I find the idea of traveling half way across the country, incurring significant out-of-pocket travel expenses and court costs, the possibility of multiple trips, and waiting months to potentially receive a judgment in some amount, to be a dubious effort for $1000. I understand the loss of potential income of $1000, but you will put in a good bit of time, effort and expense in chasing it - probably considerably more than you now realize.

12-01-2007, 06:36 AM
Something I touched on earlier that I wanted to mention again: just winning a judgment in your favor does not guarantee that you'll get payment. My company has won cases and yet we never collected a dime.

A number of things can prevent you from collecting. There are situations under which a judgment will allow you to attach a bank account, accounts receivable, wages, etc, but, not all situations and jurisdiction permit this. If you cannot attach these types of assets, you will be forced to execute your judgment against other assets of the defendant, such as computers, office equipment, etc. This generally means a good bit of extra work on your part (and, often, additional costs). And, if the defendant owns nothing (ie: rents everything), you will have no assets on which to execute. (Also, depending on the jurisdiction, there are assets exempt from execution.)

Even if you are able to attach bank accounts, etc, you may not get your money. If the defendant owes others who have judgments, liens, encumbrances, or other rights to attach the accounts, that are superior to yours, you may never get paid. Those who would be superior to yours include the government (all levels - federal, state & city), secured debtors (mortgages, loans, etc), his employees (if he has or had any), anyone with a judgment dated prior to yours.

There are people very skilled and experienced at getting around the system.