ANDERSON — Brian Clark thought he was in good hands while searching for investment property to buy in Anderson earlier this year.
Clark's brother-in-law recommended he hire Roger Shoot, an old college friend, to help. Clark was immediately impressed by Shoot's personality and credentials, as well as his thoroughness and dedication to doing quality work.
"He's (Shoot is) very soothing and calm," said Clark, a paramedic for the film industry who owns a rental property in the Los Angeles area. "I felt when I talked to him, 'Yeah, he really does know,' and I thought I knew about real estate."
Several months later, local police are investigating Clark's fraud allegations against Shoot, who is already facing 31 criminal charges for a variety of alleged transgressions related to his local real estate dealings.
With Shoot's help, Clark bought a house in the 2200 block of Kayhill Drive for $34,000 in cash.
Assessed at $67,200, according to Madison County records, the property was in foreclosure. Clark believed he got a good deal.
The house wasn't move-in ready like some other homes Clark considered. But Shoot told him, Clark said, that the Kayhill Drive home had a certain "wow" factor and, with some renovations and updates, it could fetch $1,200 per month in rent.
After the purchase, Clark said, he agreed to let Shoot handle the property management and renovations. The cost would be $24,000 to cover labor and materials for the project, plus a 15-percent management fee of $3,600.
That was in April.
Now, six months later, the renovation still isn't complete, according to Clark, who lists the following problems:
Air conditioning, a new furnace and several replacement windows haven't been installed. Used appliances Shoot bought don't work, carpeting hasn't been laid as promised and limbs cut from trees as part of a landscaping project litter the ground.
And the money's gone.
Last week, Clark met with Anderson police, who opened a second criminal investigation into Shoot's business practices based on the Los Angeles man's allegations, said APD spokesman Joel Sandefur. Clark believes he can make a strong case against Shoot for home improvement fraud, potentially a Level 6 felony.
Shoot did not return a phone call from The Herald Bulletin seeking comment for this article.
At first, Clark wasn't too concerned about the delays, he said, even though a family friend had alerted Clark and his wife about Shoot's legal troubles with the Indiana Attorney General's office.
They began reading articles in The Herald Bulletin about the allegations. After reading one, Clark's wife, Irene, sent an alarmed, terse message to her husband: "WTF. Call me when you get this text."
A few minutes later Shoot called instead. There wasn't any truth to the allegations in the lawsuits; it was all a big misunderstanding, Shoot assured her, Clark recalled.
Then, according to Clark, Shoot sent them a series of emails containing testimonials from satisfied customers, including missionaries in African countries praising his work and competence in managing their investment properties.
"We were suspicious, but then we were soothed by all these testimonials he sent us," Clark said. "He spun it to make him sound like he was innocent."
A month ago, Clark began questioning Shoot more closely about the status of the renovation and whether the project was still on budget. The responses were not reassuring, Clark said. During one call, Shoot said he would need additional cash, according to Clark.
On Oct. 19, Clark said, he and his wife were celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary when Shoot sent them a detailed "to-do" list for the Kayhill property.
Another $8,500 would be needed to finish, Shoot allegedly told them. When he heard the price, Clark ordered Shoot to stop work and flew in to meet with him personally and inspect the house. Shoot later reduced the price to $7,890, according to Clark, but Shoot said he would still charge his 15 percent management fee.
"I can only describe my experience with him as surreal," Clark said. "Even though I came out here angry, I met Roger at McDonald's, and he was so kind, so nice, so attentive to everything you said."
In another face-to-face meeting a couple of days later, Clark said, he accused Shoot of embezzling his money by inflating labor costs by a factor of five. Clark had met with Shoot's construction foreman, who shared his notes on several aspects of the job. The foreman's estimated costs, Clark said, didn't match the costs Shoot presented in the final "to-do" list.
Clark said he demanded half his money back and gave Shoot a deadline to respond. He's still waiting. But not sitting idle.
Clark decided to call attention to Shoot's actions by starting a one-man protest.
He picketed in front of Shoot's home on Halloween eve; at Park Place Church of God the following Sunday until two members of the congregation confronted him and the police were called; at Anderson University, and in front of the Madison County Government Center last week.
"It's not that I'm an angry, crazy man," Clark said. "I'm just seeking justice."
"I want to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and I gave him lots of benefits of doubt," Clark said. "But I started adding up all the lying, and I could see for myself that there's no way $24,000 went into the house. I just knew it.
"In spite of the fact that I wanted to like him because of his shiny, friendly demeanor, the fact is I'm out $24,000. And I've got a house I have to put another $6,000 to $8,000 into just to fix what he didn't do and what he screwed up."
Like Stu Hirsch on Facebook and follow him @stuhirsch on Twitter, or call 640-4861.