No forwarding address: Va. Beach contractor leaves customers, former employees angry

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — 10 On Your Side has investigated a local remodeling contractor that appears to have gone out of business. They left behind some angry customers who are telling us they paid American Family Professional Remodeling thousands of dollars and have nothing to show for it.

Alice Johnson of South Norfolk thought she was being careful.

“We checked into everything. I thought they were legitimate. I just knew that they were legitimate,” said Johnson, adding that the people from American Family Professional Remodeling (AFPR) looked the part, too. “They had the name of the company, they had the name tags, everything we thought was right.”

She wanted renovations to her kitchen and dining room, so in December 2021, she gave AFPR nearly $15,000 as a deposit on the job. Since then, no work, no supplies.

Johnson sighed when asked how much that $15,000 meant to her.

“I try not to think about it,” she said.

William Allen of Suffolk says what happened to him was out of line, too. He paid AFPR $3,250, half the price on the contract he signed in August to replace this deck.

Like Johnson, he was ghosted.

Allen wanted to see for himself, so he came to the business address on Virginia Beach Boulevard — twice.

The first time, Allen says “the place was wide open. Stuff was everywhere, laptops laying around like the place had been ransacked. Nobody was there.”

Allen returned to the AFPR office in January.

“They had a note on the door saying they had moved, but no forwarding address,” he said.

He notified the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation, the state agency that regulates contractors, filed a police report, and also took the company to court, getting a judgment against AFPR in March.

But others have much more at stake.

A local couple says they paid AFPR $20,000 upfront last summer and their case is headed to arbitration.
They’ve filed a report with Chesapeake police.

A woman in Virginia Beach says she paid AFPR a deposit of $25,000. She says she got no work or materials. She, too, has filed a police report.

AFPR, formerly known as Proper Contracting, is named in several recent and ongoing civil cases.

10 On Your Side reached out to Brian Whatley. According to state records, Whatley is a member of AFPR.
In a limited liability company such as this one, a member is equivalent to an owner.

We wanted to ask what happened to these jobs. We were denied an interview, but a lawyer for the company told us in a statement: “AFPR maintains that all consumer contracts were executed in good faith and with the intent to complete in accordance with their terms, Moreover, many intended timeframes for project start dates were extended due to the pandemic.”

And then there are the former employees. They say the company owes them money, too.

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Devin Saunders was a sales rep who says AFPR owes him $13,500 in commissions. Saunders’s supervisor, former sales manager Sonny Parks says he is owed tens of thousands of dollars.

Based on our review of company documents, sales reps and their manager got half their commission when a customer had paid half the project price — the front end — and the remaining commission after the remainder was paid at completion of the work — the back end.

Saunders says Whatley terminated him by text in late December in a message that says “AFPR isn’t happening anymore.”

The company’s attorney also addressed these claims in his statement. He stated, “AFPR maintains all employees have been paid fully and in conformance with their contracts.”

10 On Your Side looked through more than a hundred files that Parks says are uncompleted jobs.

It’s unclear what happened to thousands of dollars in customer deposits. Some of that came from Alice Johnson’s bank account.

“I learned the lesson. A very good lesson,” Johnson said. “Don’t trust it until they start it.”

“She had actually saved the cash, literally the cash to pay for this kitchen that was her dream kitchen,” Parks said.

Customers and former employees told 10 On Your Side that they had to agree not to disparage the company, otherwise, their project or their paycheck would stop.

Parks and Saunders say they know they’re taking a risk.

“I worry that because we’re blowing the whistle on [Whatley], that means there’s absolutely no chance that we’re gonna get what we’re owed,” Parks said.

AFPR has assigned about 90 contracts to another local contractor. He hopes to get complete those jobs by the end of this calendar year. But short of legal action, customers believe any deposits they’ve paid upfront will likely be lost.

We’ve previously reported on the State Contractor Transaction Recovery Fund that can reimburse customers in certain cases.