Handyman accused of taking money without completing kitchen renovation

Complaint filed against Nicholas Huff of Indio

Palm Desert woman says handyman took her

PALM DESERT, Calif. - Nearly five months after signing a contract for new cabinets and countertops to be installed in her Palm Desert home, Carole Pateman says she is still waiting for the handyman to do the work.

"I'm very upset, I'm upset with myself, at being taken advantage of, but he was a brilliant con artist," said Pateman.

It all began with a contract Pateman says she signed March 26th, with Nicholas Huff of Indio, who offers services under the name "I Can Fix That".

Pateman says she contacted Huff after finding reviews about his work on Yelp.

The contract was signed after Huff looked at her kitchen, provided detailed plans for renovation, along with a rendering of what Patemen's kitchen would look like once the work was finished.

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"The reason i chose him, in all honesty, was I didn't have that much money, and he said he could do the job for six or seven thousand (dollars)," said Pateman.

After signing the contract, the 74-year-old former flight attendant says she paid Huff $4,700 on March 26th, for the purchase and installation of the cabinets, and later paid an additional $2,300 to pay for a stone slab.

But since March, Pateman says the handyman has largely ignored her attempts at communicating with him, and she says he has not performed any work in the kitchen.

After her daughter left phone messages for Huff, pressuring him to complete the job, Huff emailed Carole on July 18th. 

It reads, in part, "Carole, look you're my client and I would never steal from you or do you wrong. We have a contract together and I intend to stand by my word and carry out my portion of the contract."

In the email, he also offered to finish the job, after he gets an additional $2,300, saying that is needed to pay for shipping the cabinets from Pennsylvania.

Despite having a verbal agreement to have the work completed by August 23rd, Pateman says she's "had enough", and she's concluded that she's been "ripped off".

She's has filed a police report against the handyman, and says she wants to warn others.

"He was very clever. I got taken for a ride, and I'm mad about it.  I wished I had done a little more research before i went into this, but I didn't," said Pateman.

We attempted to reach Mr. Huff by phone, and we've sent him several emails, asking him several questions about the project, and offering him a chance to tell his side of the story on-camera.  He has not answered most of our questions and won't talk on camera.  He is also not responding to Carole's request for information regarding the company making the cabinets.

In one email response to CBS Local 2, Huff wrote, in part, "I have our business contract which details our agreement together and the terms we are both to stand by during her kitchen project. I have stood to my side and contacted the client trying to resolve this issue as well."

We also followed up at the Riverside County Sheriff's station in Palm Desert to find out how they're responding to Carole's complaint against the handyman.

We are told deputies have been unable to make contact with Huff to question him, and they continue to make efforts to reach him.

A sheriff's spokesperson said the case is now being handled as a "civil matter". 

"As far as he is concerned, I want him thrown in jail.  If you want to know the truth, he deserves to go to jail," said Pateman.

Pateman, who still has her plates, pots, and pans stacked in her living and dining area admits she "made mistakes" in hiring Huff, who is not a licensed contractor.

She wanted to save money on the project.

Also worth noting, the work agreement she signed does not specify how much would be paid for the renovation project, nor does it include a date for when the work would begin, or a date for when the work would be completed. 

The grandmother says she doesn't want Huff in her house again.

She is now talking with a licensed contractor to complete the job and is thinking about taking Huff to small claims court.

"He has $7,000 of my money, and I have absolutely nothing to show for it," said Pateman.

We'll continue to follow the investigation into Huff's dealings, and we'll keep you posted on Carole Pateman's efforts to get her money back.

If you are looking to hire someone for a project at your home, the Contractor's State License Board wants you to know that any contractor working on a job valued at $500 or more, must be licensed by the CSLB to work in California.  The agency also recommends you avoid rushing into repairs and take the time to get at least three identical bids and be sure to verify testimonials.

Click here for the complete list of recommendations from the CSLB.


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