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'He Cleaned Me Out': Contractor Walks Off $26,000 Job; Takes Homeowner's Supplies With Him

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Shoddy workmanship, stolen materials, and thousands of wasted dollars; complaints about shady contractors flood Chicago, and CBS 2 Investigator Dorothy Tucker has advice on how to avoid being taken by one.

Fannie Fowler hired Keith Fields, owner of BWF Construction, to remodel her home in the Burnside neighborhood.

"He cleaned me out," she said.

Her son, Ronnie Fowler, said they bought all the supplies for the job, and Fields was supposed to do all the labor.

The contract included repairing the roof; and installing a new bathroom, cabinets, and furnace for a total price of $26,000.

The Fowlers said Fields started working in February 2017, but by August there were issues.

"He kept trying to get more and more money. When she finally came to me, I said don't give him no more money. Stop, just stop everything right now. That's when he walked off the job," Ronnie said.

Fields took the supplies with him, according to reports Ronnie Fowler filed with police and the Illinois Attorney General's office.

"I have proof here of all the supplies that were purchased," he said.

The proof includes receipts and thousands of dollars in checks written to Fields.

Ronnie Fowler tried to reach Fields after he walked off the job, sending text after text.

"I'm still texting. 'This is missing. Can we talk about it?' This man wouldn't even communicate with me to say 'I didn't do it,'" Ronnie Fowler said.

CBS 2 tried to locate Fields, traveling to a business address in Indiana, and homes in South Holland and Chicago, where we found Bernard Hebron, who said he's Fields' stepson.

Hebron said he doubted his stepfather would have stolen the materials the Fowlers purchased.

"That don't really sound like him," he said.

Reached by text, Fields refused to answer most questions, but insisted, "I still haven't done anything wrong."

Fannie Fowler said she hired Fields because he came highly recommended, but she admitted she didn't check to see if he had a license.

Fields is not a licensed roofer, which is required by the state. He's also not on the city of Chicago's list of thousands of licensed general contractors, and city officials said he wasn't listed in 2017.

"I should have checked, and I didn't check. I just took everybody's word for it," Fannie said.

City officials said homeowners should always check the list of licensed general contractors before hiring one. You need a license to pull a permit, and the city has suspended permitting privileges for nearly 75 contractors since 2017. The city also has issued cease and desist orders to 15 unlicensed contractors in that time.

"I'm just hurt. I'm just disappointed," Fannie said.

Ronnie Fowler has filed a complaint with the city on behalf of his mother.

Fields is licensed in Indiana, but city officials said that doesn't count in Chicago. A general contractor still must obtain a separate Chicago license.

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