Every day, millions of large and small purchases are made online. Whether on or offline, ordering a product and waiting for delivery is an act of trust most of us take for granted. Most of the time, our products arrive on time and at a fair price. But occasionally, something goes wrong, and the product doesn’t arrive. If you order from a large retailer, they may have policies to reimburse you. But if the retailer isn’t responsive, you’d be surprised just how hard it can be to get your money back.
A “Tiny” Purchase
It seems that tiny homes are all the rage these days. Television shows and magazine articles are popping up everywhere with stories of how tiny homes bring their owners financial peace of mind while offering a down-to-earth, no-frills lifestyle. That promise appealed to Boyd and Julie Norris. Back in February of 2017, Boyd and Julie made a very large “tiny” purchase. They wired more than $22,000 to Kokoon Homes to pay for the tiny home of their dreams. It was supposed to arrive in 6 to 8 weeks. But the dream quickly faded into a nightmare.
Six weeks came and went, and the delivery never arrived. So Boyd did what anyone would do, he called the merchant. But all he got was excuses, excuses, and more excuses. Eventually, the Norisses got tired of the runaround and decided this nightmare was ready to be over. They decided to cancel delivery and simply ask for a refund. But it just got worse from there.
The refund never came. Their calls weren’t answered. It looked like they had hit a dead end. But The Norrises were not going to take this lying down. Julie boarded a plane from her home in Granbury, Texas headed to a homes show in Atlanta, Georgia. Kokoon Homes was going to be at the show, and Julie intended to talk to the owner, Dave Rades, in person. She even wore a shirt emblazoned with the words “No Home, No Refund, No Kokoon”, so that everyone at the show would know what kind of guy Dave is. Dave never showed up, but Julie did run into Dale, who took up her case.
A Criminal Matter
Eventually, the Norisses were forced to take Dave Rades and Kokoon Homes to court. They sued them for their refund. But the suit went nowhere. They got more and more runaround. One problem was that this was being dealt with as a civil matter, a simple monetary dispute between individuals.
Clearly, there had been a criminal theft here, but it’s not easy to bring criminal charges.
Criminal theft is defined as “the physical removal of an object that is capable of being stolen without the consent of the owner and with the intention of depriving the owner of it permanently.” Obviously, there are many subcategories, but one major point is that the stolen property, or money, is taken “without the consent of the owner”. This is where the Norisses and so many swindled customers run into trouble. When they gave their money to Dave Rades and Kokoon Homes, they gave the money willingly. It only became theft when Dave failed to deliver the product.
Theft By Conversion
Once Dale and the TrustDALE team were on the case, we weren’t going to let this fall through the cracks. We made multiple attempts to confront Dave. At one point our producer Marnie actually made contact with him at a homes show. At first, he was friendly, but when Marnie got to the tough questions, he quickly clammed up, telling her only to “talk to the attorneys.”
It seemed that the only way to proceed was to get the local authorities involved. But that wouldn’t be easy.
When the amounts are less than $30,000, local authorities often bow out, treating these kinds of disputes as civil matters. It’s unfortunate because $30,000 is a lot of money for a consumer to part with just because the authorities don’t want to get involved in a business dispute. We started gathering evidence, making calls, and working the system. That’s what we’re here for!
There is a particular category of theft that applies to precisely this sort of case, where the initial possession of the stolen property, in this case, the Norisses’ money, was made with the consent of the owner. Theft by conversion occurs when an individual takes something that they were given possession of for one purpose and “converts it” to their own personal use. Typically it is applied when someone refuses to return or attempts to sell a rented property, such as a vehicle. But in this case, the property Dave Rades was converting to his own use was the money he had been given by the Norisses. That money was supposed to be spent on a tiny home, not to line his own pockets.
In the end, Dave Rades was charged with one count of felony theft by conversion and one count of conversion of payments for real property. As of the writing of this post, he has pleaded not guilty.
If you have a problem you can’t solve, contact us. We’re here to help with tough cases just like this one.