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RV rip-off? Customers say they paid but didn’t get restored campers

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- It's a warning for any consumer to background before you buy. Customers of one business turned to the On Your Side Investigators after shelling out thousands of dollars, but never getting exactly what they paid for.

Lieutenant Joe Painter made his family one promise when he got orders to move to Tennessee from Hawaii.

"One of the things I told my kids was we could get a camper when we moved, we could start traveling the country, looking around," Lt. Painter said.

Lt. Painter isn't just talking about any camper though. His wife Elizabeth says she had her eye on a vintage camper for years. Think throwback, from the '50s and '60s.

"I've always loved vintage campers so I had been sort of obsessively looking when we moved here," Elizabeth said.

Lt. Painter told WREG, "We just started looking around, typing into Google, 'vintage campers in the area,' and yeah, we came across Craigslist and saw his postings, everything looked good, the photos looked great."

Those posts, according to Lt. Painter, belonged to a man named Steve Calhoon from Tipton County.

Painter's family picked out a camper, then met with Calhoon to finalize plans for the purchase and facelift of the RV.

"He told us about how he had restored them for people all over the country, he'd done 800 of them," Elizabeth said.

"It sounded like it was going to be a real good deal," Lt. Painter added.

Painter showed WREG his receipts where he made an initial payment of $3,000 in March of 2014, and a second payment for the balance of $1,750 two months later.

Painter says that's when he stopped hearing from Calhoon.

"After we made that payment, a couple of weeks later, we ended up driving by a couple of times and it had never moved. Nothing had been done at all," Lt. Painter said.

In fact, WREG saw the camper still sitting in a grassy lot in Atoka.

Painter has the title and bill of sale, but not the restored RV he paid for.

"In the end, we just got scammed basically," Painter said.

Little did he know, more than 400 miles away in Atlanta, Georgia, someone else was going through the same thing.

Samantha Johnson and Miranda Nomura own a food truck called Snobayou. They sell customized sno balls. The two spoke with WREG via Skype.

"He was super inviting, his wife was really nice, he just kept saying, like, I'm going to take care of you girls, don't worry about a thing," Johnson said of Calhoon.

However, worrying was all Johnson and Nomura and ended up doing.

The two paid Calhoon nearly $4,000 for a restoration job only. They already owned their camper.

Normura told WREG, "He just continued to make excuses of why he couldn't get the work done. Finally it got to a place where we were at the end, my husband got in his truck and drove up there went to his house, picked it up and left and since then, we've had to get almost everything re-done."

Nomura says what's worse is "what he was doing was actually using our camper to get business!"

"We saw that one and thought this could be us," Kerry Peeples, co-owner of Thigh High Jeans, said.

Peeples and co-owner Ann Smithwick sell hand crafted jeans (made from recyclable material) out of their mobile business.

They gave WREG a tour of the unit. However, the camper they have now isn't the one they started with.

The original, the one they say they paid Calhoon roughly $3,500 to fix, is sitting at a local garage.

They showed the On Your Side Investigators a document labeled "Proposal," including what they say is Calhoon's signature. It outlines all the work that was supposed to be done, and notes the deposit.

Peeples said, "It's really crappy because this guy is clearly doing wrong by a lot of people."

Lt. Painter said, "I started looking online and find out about this guy and he's all over the place."

Calhoon's name pops up on online forums and sites like Rip Off Report, where people say Calhoon takes the money and runs.

There's the "F" with the Better Business Bureau after Calhoon failed to respond to complaints two years in a row about work that was paid for, but never finished. The BBB couldn't find him.

Calhoon Construction is on the Buyer Beware list with Consumer Affairs in Tennessee for a complaint about RV roof work.

"It's crazy that stuff, that he can still operate," Lt. Painter said.

Calhoon wasn't at home when we visited. He did finally return our phone calls.

Calhoon says he sold the campers as is, with no warranty.

As far as restoration, he says before our call, he wasn't aware of any complaints besides Painter's.

"I've been doing construction for 37 years, 37 years, I've done buildings all over the country and I've got what, a handful of complaints? I can't do anything about it," Calhoon said by phone.

The people WREG spoke with say they realize they may never get their money back, but they hope nobody else has the same experience.

"We're grateful you're bringing light to this. At least we get a shot of him on live tv saying, don't mess with this dude, he's bad news," Peeples said.

"We're just grateful that the Lieutenant actually like took the steps to reaching out to you guys and hopefully, putting a stop to this," Nomura said.

Lt. Painter told WREG, "It's important for me to do things like this to let people know that they could potentially be scammed."

Lt. Painter sued Calhoon for breach of contract. A hearing is set for January in their case.

We asked Calhoon about explaining more of his side on camera. He said he's out of town, and would consider talking to us when he gets back.

2 comments

  • A

    Steve Calhoon took me for $3,500. My attorney got $1,000 back and im expecting the balance soon. It’s been over 1 year since I gave Calhoon my money. He is verbally abusive and attempts to make you think you’re the reason he hasn’t got your camper ready. My prayers have been answered with this story.

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