KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The former owner of Sunrooms Express has paid restitution to several of his customers in East Tennessee after he was charged with theft, but some are still awaiting more payments.

In May, the Knox County District Attorney’s Office filed criminal charges against Barry Smith. For three months in 2023, Smith said he and his attorney were working on a repayment plan to some of his customers for jobs that never got started.

The plan was never executed and two of the families WATE spoke with took him to court.

However, only one family has gotten their deposit returned, the couple that went to the sheriff’s office and filed a criminal case. The other family entered into a civil lawsuit. While they won their case, they only received a fraction of their money back.

There’s a new addition to Joe and Ruth Andrick‘s home. A 400-square-foot glass enclosed porch including, heat and air, was completed recently by a leading East Tennessee business that specializes in building sunrooms.

“The company said it was one of the largest they had done, the area itself. Everything had to be custom made, the windows and the whole nine yards,” said Joe Andrick.

The new sunroom was finished in 10 days this summer. However, the couple hired another contractor, Sunrooms Express of Knoxville, to build their sunroom last summer. Barry Smith owned and operated the business. The Andricks’ contract with him was signed on April 29, 2022. The total price was $42,000. Smith asked for a third down, $12,900.

“I said to my wife get the checkbook, write a check and let’s get this underway,” said Joe Andrick.

“And no one ever stepped foot on this property after he left with our money,” Ruth Andrick added.

Smith never started the job either for the Andricks or another couple. Linda and Phil Peek also hired Sunrooms Express in April of 2022. $29,700 was the cost of their project and $10,000 was required as a deposit. They waited months for the job to get underway and no construction ever started.

Wanting to know why, WATE went to Barry Smith’s Sunrooms Express office in February. WATE found Smith lying down, saying he’s been stressed out recently, but he agreed to talk. Regarding Linda and Phil Peek, he said that hoped to return their deposit “as soon as possible.”

Three months later, Smith faced two counts of theft. The felony charges were filed by the Knox County District Attorney’s office. After negotiations, he agreed to a deal. Judge Chuck Cerny accepted Smith’s plea to return $10,000 to the Peeks and $15,000 to another couple last week in court.

On the other hand, the Andricks filed a civil lawsuit against Smith which they won last spring, kind of.

“We were supposed to receive $1,000 a month over a 12-month period of time until we were paid in full,” said Joe Andrick.

However, Smith made just two payments. The Andricks received only $2,000 dollars out of nearly $13,000. It’s up to the couple to collect the rest since the agreement with Smith had been reached in civil court.

On the other hand, the Peeks filed a criminal case against Smith and received all of their deposit.

In Maryville, Vicki Richards hired Smith to build a sunroom in May of 2022. The cost was $41,500. Her deposit was $10,000. Despite promises to finish the job, only a slab was built. Richards said she’s now in negotiations to settle her civil lawsuit against Smith.

Sunrooms Express is now out of business. The office is closed, but Joe Andrick is now considering filing criminal charges against Smith.

“I would like to, I’d love to try to reinstitute the criminal lawsuit if I could. That’s what we are investigating right now,” said Joe Andrick.

Under state law, if a contractor fails to start a job within 90 days, and if a demand letter goes unanswered, you can go to your local sheriff’s office and pursue a possible criminal case. The Knox County District Attorney’s Office believes there may be other customers of Sunrooms Express, and Barry Smith, who are still waiting for the construction of their sunrooms. If so, contact your local police or sheriff’s department to get the ball rolling.