News 8 Investigates
Dallas-area contractor Erik Narvaez was happy to receive a phone call from Rocky Shaw, who touted himself as an environmental contractor.
“So you get excited because you're always looking for the customer that's going to help your business grow,” Narvaez recalled.
Shaw’s company, Quest Environmental, boasted a long list of big-name clients on its website. Narvaez said Shaw hired him to do some construction work.
Now, five months after completing his work, Narvaez said he’s still waiting for a $3,400 check from Shaw.
“It may not sound like a lot of money, but for a small business it hurts a lot,” Narvaez said. He said he barely avoided shutting down his business after paying his workers out of his savings.
A WFAA investigation found Narvaez is one of five subcontractors who claim they never got paid by Shaw and his company.
The subcontractors allege Shaw contracted with clients for environmental construction jobs across North Texas. Though Shaw hired subcontractors to do work or provide products -- upon completion of the job -- he got paid, then became unreachable and failed to pay them.
Claims of improprieties are not new for Shaw.
Nearly 15 years ago, WFAA featured victims who alleged Shaw acted as a mortgage broker and scammed them out of their homes.
Shaw ultimately admitted the scheme was illegal. He pleaded guilty to federal mail fraud charges and spent 18 months in prison.
A judge also ordered him to pay $371,202 in restitution to the victims. To date, he’s paid hardly any of it, federal court records show.
Now, WFAA has found that Shaw has targeted mostly small, minority-run contractors and is taking them for sometimes tens of thousands of dollars.
George Lopez, a Dallas contractor, claimed Shaw stiffed him for $80,000. Due to the nonpayment, he said he was forced to close his business.
“You’ve caused so much damage that you don’t even care,” Lopez told WFAA when asked what he would like to tell Shaw.
Lopez said Shaw gave him a series of excuses for not paying.
“One of the very last texts I got from him, he told me he was in the hospital,” Lopez said. “And he said after he got out of the hospital he would ... pay me.”
Other contractors like Narvaez said they also received various excuses.
In a text message to Narvaez, Shaw said that his accounts payable “is working on it.”
When WFAA tried to speak with Shaw, we discovered his company likely lacked an accounts payable department.
Instead, much of his operation is run out of a North Dallas P.O. box.
After finding Shaw, WFAA asked him about his failure to pay contractors, and failure to pay his federal restitution.
Shaw wouldn’t answer questions and instead ordered our crew off his front yard, and said he planned to call 911.
Late Thursday, Shaw emailed WFAA saying that he could not comment on the advice of his attorneys because of "current and ongoing" litigation against Narvaez and Lopez. We reached out to both contractors Thursday evening and they said they know of no such lawsuits against them. WFAA could not immediately verify that any such lawsuits exist.
Over the past few weeks, WFAA also contacted clients who Shaw listed on his website. Nearly all the clients WFAA contacted have no record that Shaw did work for them.
A WFAA review of Shaw’s online resume also showed discrepancies.
An Oklahoma-based environmental company called Shaw’s claim that he worked there for seven years “a pure fabrication.” A company official said Shaw may have worked seven months, and failed to perform many of the duties listed on the résumé.
Shaw was sued in 2013 by another company who claimed he didn’t pay for work he asked them to perform. Shaw failed to show up in court. As a result, a judge granted Modecor, formerly based in Dallas but now defunct, a $30,000 default judgment against Shaw.
Contractors such as Lopez said they have to move on, yet the financial loss still stings.
“Yeah, you do feel taken advantage of,” Lopez said.