A Madison contractor pleaded not guilty Thursday to 14 charges connected to his alleged failure to pay subcontractors for four 2009 projects.
Ronald D. Belshaw, 38, faces three counts of felony theft by contractor and 11 misdemeanor counts of violating unfair trade general orders. According to the criminal complaint, he allegedly accepted money from one business owner and three homeowners for expansion projects and then did not pay his subcontractors.
Belshaw was the owner and operator of Madison-based Belshaw Builders LLC, although he told a Dane County circuit court commissioner Thursday he no longer was in construction and now worked for an automotive business.
Belshaw declined to comment Thursday morning as he left Dane County Circuit Court, only saying that he had not hired a lawyer.
Some of the charges stem from Belshaw’s work with Dean and Kathleen Reinke, who paid Belshaw $104,850 for an addition to their Madison home, a garage expansion and a new driveway, according to the complaint. Of the four projects listed in the complaint, the Reinke’s contract was the largest.
The family hired Belshaw on July 1, 2009, but by October, several subcontractors had quit, according to the complaint. By mid-November, all of the work had stopped, the complaint stated, with electrical, plumbing and concrete work unfinished.
On Jan. 6, 2010, Belshaw told the Reinkes he hadn’t paid anyone from the project, choosing instead to spend the money on tools and advertising for his business, the complaint stated.
The Reinkes successfully sued Belshaw, winning a $271,369.10 judgment in May 2010. Dean Reinke would not comment when contacted Thursday.
During the Reinke project, Belshaw also contracted work for Madison resident Jessica Robbins, who paid the builder $18,600 for a garage and driveway project, according to the complaint.
A message left for Robbins’ lawyer, Rebecca Vahle, was not immediately returned Thursday afternoon.
Jim Legler, owner of Belleville-based Legler Concrete LLC, worked on the Reinke and Robbins jobs for Belshaw. Legler said he had worked with Belshaw on a previous sidewalk replacement job without a problem.
Belshaw paid him half, or about $7,000, for the Robbins project, Legler said, but wouldn’t pay the remainder, so he left the Reinke job as soon as possible.
“I was supposed to do (the Reinke) driveway, but he had no money to pay me and it would’ve been another $10,000 to $11,000 on my part,” Legler said. “But I could smell a rat coming real fast there.”
Legler said he regretted not forewarning the next concrete contractor, Gary Tellefson, owner of Edgerton-based Tellefson Concrete and Excavating LLC.
Tellefson said he also previously had worked with Belshaw without a problem, so there was no reason to be leery when he took over the Reinke driveway job.
“He took me into the homeowner’s house,” Tellefson said of Belshaw. “And he sat there, holding the homeowner’s child, being all nice and looking me in the eye and said I’d be paid.
“As soon as I did the driveway, he took all the money and skated out.”
Tellefson, who according to the complaint was owed $10,059.44, said he eventually tracked Belshaw down only to find out the money was gone.
“He told me he was broke and spent everything,” Tellefson said. “It’s a terrible thing to do to a person. I’m a really small business, and he knew right away he wasn’t going to pay anybody.”
Legler said he lost $2,078 on the Reinke job. Robbins paid Legler the remaining $6,699.59 for her garage and driveway work after Legler placed a lien on the project, he said.
“She paid me out in full,” Legler said, “so that’s why I backed away and didn’t get a lawyer and go after him.”
Tellefson, who said he doubts he would get his money back, said he had to change how he approached projects.
“It makes you leery about every person you work with,” he said. “Now we do half-down at the start and half payment after it’s done.”
Belshaw, whose next appearance in court is scheduled for March 26, could be sentenced to a maximum of 33 years in jail and $100,000 in fines if convicted.
“And I hope,” Tellefson said, “he gets every damn day of it.”