Update 5/3/17 - Days after being charged William Stephens was in handcuffs, apprehended Tuesday by agents in his hometown of Muskogee.
7 alleged crimes, 7 Oklahoma families, all claiming they were duped by the owner of "Tornado King Shelters."
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter says he and his team are deeply committed to helping the families recoup their money from Stephens.
“We are going to hold him accountable for what he's done,” he said. “You've got families who are taking steps to protect themselves, their children, their loved ones, and they're doing everything right, except they're dealing with the wrong person.”
The In Your Corner bottom line is no one is keeping an eye on storm shelter installers in our state.
Sure there is a registry of certified installers you can access online, but there's no regulation or enforcement.
“That's probably something we should look at given the frequency with which this is happening and with the safety issues,” Attorney General Hunter said.
Tornado King set up a booth at the Oklahoma City Home and Garden Show a year and a half ago offering cheap financing.
Oklahoma’s top attorney reminds us that anyone can pay the fee to rent a table or booth at a trade show.
He said, “As much as you want to get your windows fixed and your roof repaired quickly it's better to make sure you do it right. Take your time. Get estimates, check people out.”
Stephens was extradited from Muskogee to Cleveland County for his arraignment.
We'll keep you posted on the case.
OKLAHOMA CITY - An Oklahoma man who owns a company that installs tornado shelters is charged with embezzlement.
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter today announced the filing of seven felony counts of embezzlement against William Stephens, who owns Tornado King Shelters.
The Attorney General's office launched an investigation into Stephens and his company after receiving several complaints of alleged fraud against the Tornado King Shelters company.
Throughout the course of the investigation, agents discovered on multiple occasions the Tornado King received full or partial payments for work his company never completed.
“We will not tolerate individuals or companies that defraud Oklahomans,” Attorney General Hunter said. “I appreciate the outstanding work by the Consumer Protection Unit to hold individuals accountable for their crimes.”
A Cleveland County judge set his bail at $50,000.
If convicted, Stephens faces up to five years in prison and $5,000 per count in fines and restitution.
Attorney General Hunter and the Consumer Protection Unit recommend the following consumer tips when individuals consider hiring a contractor:
- Never pay for the entire job upfront.
- The majority of reputable companies in Oklahoma will install or build without payment until the job is complete.
- Be suspicious of door-to-door solicitations.
- Get a business card and research the company’s history online. Also, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit to see if any complaints have been filed against the company.
- Ask trustworthy people for a referral.
- Whenever possible, deal with local contractors who have roots in the community and independently verify addresses
- Receive several written estimates from different contractors.
- Ask each contractor for references where they have completed work.