'Veterans' contractor may need vetting

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by BYRON HARRIS

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WFAA

Posted on May 7, 2013 at 10:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 8 at 11:44 AM

Nothing taps America's generosity more than a tragedy like the explosion in West, Texas except perhaps one thing: Patriotism.

American Veterans Restoration and Roofing (AVRR) has the perfect moniker to bring in business in the devastation of West... veterans helping victims.

But while AVRR has a history of turning up where tragedy has occurred, the men behind the company have a tangled legal past and a trail of angry employees who are veterans themselves.

AVRR filed for incorporation five months ago, state records show. Ron Robey, J.D. Roberts and Brian White showed up after a fire at Storybook Ranch in McKinney offering their labor for free.

Storybook — which provides services for children with learning disabilities — saw its main building burn down in January.

The veterans working for AVRR worked for days cleaning up debris at the ranch, only to find they wouldn't be paid by their employer.

"I started getting calls from his men that they hadn't been paid in the last three months," says Wayne Kirk, whose charity runs Storybook.

It was weeks after the fire and cleanup, and Kirk paid the men out of Storybook funds.

"I believe they haven't been paid for two or three months with the exception of this job," he said. "When they asked for their money, they got fired."

James Johnson is one of the veterans who said he wasn't paid. He said AVRR owes him $2,500.

"Right now I'm living out of the back of my car," Johnson told News 8.

We talked to five others who said they also haven't been paid for their cleanup work at Storybook Ranch.

Robey, Roberts and White are facing more than angry vets at the moment. Last month, the three were arrested on charges of organized crime between $20,000 and $100,000 involving roofing jobs they are charged with mishandling in Collin County last summer.

Last week, AVRR posted a video tour of the West devastation on YouTube. On Saturday, it was among several organizations handing out free hamburgers at the VFW hall.

Two mean wearing AVRR company shirts said they were volunteering their services and the food; they said they weren't selling anything.

When we asked Ron Robey about organized crime charges and unpaid debts in a long attempt to interview him, he did not respond, except to say: "This is America, my friend. If you get a speeding ticket, you still have a right to go in and tell your story."

We found J.D. Roberts at the landmark Czech Stop in West, and asked him about his arrest record and unpaid veterans who had worked for the company.

"I don't know what you're talking about," he said.

Robey promised an interview with him and his two colleagues at News 8. They did not appear.

Robey, Roberts and White have not entered a plea in the organized crime case. Their attorney, Dominick Marsala, responded to our inquiries about the case with a "no comment."

E-mail bharris@wfaa.com

CORRECTION: Dominick Marsala's first name was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.

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