Several police agencies including Illinois State Police, Knox County and Bartonville Police are working together to find more victims of alleged fraud by a Bartonville-based home repair firm. For nine months the owners of Illini Siding and Windows continued to solicit and accept payment for home repair work without performing the work. Several victims have come forward and there are believed to be many more.

Daniel Cape doesn’t trust siding and windows companies and after hearing his story, it’s hard to argue.


 


The Bartonville man is one of nearly three dozen people identified by the Bartonville Police Department and the Illinois State Police as victims of an alleged scam by Bartonville-based Illinois Siding and Windows.


 


Bartonville Police Chief Brian Fengel said his department and others have looked into the company for several months for allegedly taking money for home improvement without doing any work. In Cape’s case, he wanted the company to install seven windows and a door in July 2006.


 


Someone came out, gave an estimate and then left with a $1,325 down payment. By September, Cape and his wife were getting worried. They called and called. Sometimes, the company would answer. More often, there was no reply. They even used different phones so company president, Michael Gray, would not recognize them.


 


By November, they contacted the police. The work still hasn’t been done, though Cape said another person installed the door.


 


"I just don’t understand how you can open up a business like that," he said. "All you have to do is fulfill your obligation and you are going to make money."


 


Fengel believes there are more victims out there. So far, the fraud extends in a 100-mile radius from Bartonville. A task force was established with the State Police, Bartonville, the Knox County Sheriff’s Department, the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Department and the state Attorney General’s Office all sharing information.


 


Fengel urged anyone who thinks they might be a victim of Illinois Siding and Windows to call his department at 697-2323 or the state police at 693-5181. So far, no criminal charges have been filed against the company or any of its employees.


 


The only legal action taken is a handful of small claims suits in Peoria County Circuit Court as well as a lawsuit filed in May by Attorney General Lisa Madigan against Gray and Zachary Ripper as well as their company. That suit alleges the two never showed up for appointments, took money and didn’t do any work or did some work but not enough to finish the job.


 


In all, the suit alleges, Illinois Siding and Windows got more than $57,000 in down payments from customers from February 2006 until January of this year. Nothing has been done on the suit since it was filed. A June hearing for injunctive relief against the company was cancelled and not yet been rescheduled.


 


Fengel said he has been gong before Peoria County grand juries for several months to obtain subpoenas. However, he doesn’t think charges are imminent. "We are going to investigate it thoroughly and if anyone else in involved, we mean to make sure that we have all the bases covered."


 


Andy Kravetz can be reached at (309) 686-3283 or akravetz@pjstar.com.