Covington contractor under investigation

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by JESSE JONES / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on February 9, 2010 at 12:29 AM

Updated Friday, Jun 3 at 12:03 PM

John Mulinski is an unregistered contractor who clearly doesn't want to speak with me. But now, his customers want to talk.

"He never answers the phone, you never hear from him," said Ryan Brown of Sammamish.

They are talking about the broken promises and crushed dreams.

"It's two and a half years of bad memories now, so all of our money's gone," said Kathy Kohout.

Fred and Kathy Kohout paid Mulinski $821,000 to remodel their Woodinville home in 2006. But with the job unfinished and almost all of the money paid out, the couple started getting calls from subcontractors.

"People were calling us and saying they hadn't been paid, they were calling us at home and demanding to be paid," said Fred.

According to court records, several subs went unpaid. They were owed more than $50,000.

Dave Rimbaugh is one of those subcontractors.

"I called him several times and no answer, and it went on for over a year of no money," he said.

Rimbaugh was hired to put in the heating and cooling systems. He says Mulinski still owes him $4,800. 

"I figure he knows how to work the courts and work everybody else, he seems to be pretty good at it," he said.

In my investigation, I found superior court lawsuits totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars against Mulinski from his former customers in King and Lincoln counties.

"I've been a compliance inspector for 17 years and Mr. Mulinski has surfaced off and on for the past 14 of them," said Matt Jackson, a Labor and Industries inspector.

He adds that Mulinski has a been nailed at least four times for working while unregistered.

"There's kind of an M.O. of him getting jobs, starting them and not completing them, taking money for jobs and not showing up to do the work for the jobs," he said.

Mulinski's construction empire stretches from border to border. His companies go by the names of Home Curb Appeal in Washington, Roof Systems Evaluation in Oregon, and United Roof Restoration in California.

But in California regulators have accused his company of 15 violations and have referred them to County Prosecutors or the Attorney General's Office. The cases include failing to pay subcontractors in a timely way and abandoning projects.

I provided this new information to L & I  inspector Jackson.

"Mr. Mulinski's M.O. is to do bad business. He's a bad contractor," said Jackson.

I also obtained a police report from the King County Sheriff's Department. It also details thousands of dollars Mulinski has failed to pay subcontractors. Sources tell me his case has been forwarded to prosecutors.

In the meantime, Labor and Industries has cited Home Curb Appeal twice for illegally taking jobs while unregistered - once in the Bellevue home of Clinton Jones and at the Sammamish home of Ryan and Liesl Brown.

Not only did he sign a deal to fix their roof while he was unregistered, he took $742 and never did the job.

"He's texted me several times saying the check is on the way," said Ryan. "I've consulted with my bookkeeper and the check-is-on-the-way never shows up."

I tried to get the Mulinski's side of the story. I called, went to his home twice with no answer. His wife Shannon, whose name is on several business licenses, saw me in their cul-de-sac and drove away. Some time later, I tried to speak with Mulinski  at the Convention Center and he didn't say a word.

And while prosecutors and investigators in two states focus in on Mulinski's business practices, his victims have one simple request:

"I want my money back and him to be prosecuted," said Ryan.

In court papers, Mulinski denies the Kohouts' allegations. He says the Kohouts failed to fund the necessary architectural and design services for the project and that caused excessive delays that prevented finishing the project.

He also says the negligence of the Kohouts, some subcontractors or others caused the problems with the project.

Mulinski's contractor's licenses are either expired, inactive or suspended in Washington, Oregon and California.

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