Contractors Accused in Home Improvement Scam

Couple lost retirement nest egg

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    NEWSLETTERS

    An attempt to build a dream home turned into a nightmare that cost one Charles County, Md., couple more than $300,000. News4's Darcy Spencer has more on the men accused in an alleged home improvement scheme. (Published Thursday, Apr 12, 2012)

    Investigators in Maryland uncovered an alleged home improvement scam that's reportedly cost some families hundreds of thousands of dollars. Two contractors are accused of taking payments but not finishing any work.

    For Russ Russell and his wife, Pat, their dream home became a nightmare. They said they paid a contractor more than $300,000 over a two-year period for a makeover of their home in Port Tobacco in Charles County. But much of the work wasn’t finished. Some wasn’t done at all.

    “He’s very facile,” Russell said about Christopher Manion. “He talks a really good line, and he’s inordinately convincing.”

    The Russells said they trusted Manion from D&M Construction to do the job, but they’ve haven’t seen all the materials they say they paid for, including new kitchen cabinets, hardwood and tile floors, and a new bathroom.

    “The problem is that he gains your trust and then, of course, he violates it,” Russell said.

    The Charles County Sheriff’s Office charged Manion and his partner Albert Styles in connection with three jobs that they allegedly contracted to do but never completed. Manion was charged with operating without a license and theft.

    “What we’re trying to do is put this information out there and let people know that this is going on, and if they’ve been victimized by Mr. Manion or Mr. Styles, we want to hear from them,” said Diane Richardson, of the Charles County Sheriff’s Office.

    The Russells said they’re embarrassed that they kept believing Manion and kept paying him money. He used a lot of excuses for not doing the work, such as personal and family crises, the Russells said. He also blamed some of the issues on other contractors.

    The Russells said Manion also instructed them to put their bedroom furnishings in PODS on their property. Manion was supposed to pay the PODS bill but didn't, so it was repossessed, the Russells said. Among the items lost were Russ Russell's family photos.

    “What I can’t do is I can’t recreate pictures of my mom and dad,” Russell said. “That’s just never going to happen.”

    The Russells lost their retirement nest egg and will have to keep working for the foreseeable future so they can make repairs to their home, but Russ Russell said he’s having trouble trusting another contractor to do the work.

    And he doesn’t expect to get his money back.

    The other cases involved a roof job and a bathroom makeover that were never done, according to the sheriff’s office.

    Manion and Styles could not be reached for comment Thursday.


    UPDATE: After News4 aired its report Thursday evening, the Charles County Sheriff's Office received several more complaints. One woman said she lost $30,000 and her 92-year-old mother lost $10,000. A man from Calvert County and a woman from Prince George's County also reported being victimized.