Missouri homeowners say Larry Govero and his construction business, HTL Contracting, owe them between several hundred and several thousand dollars each after Govero took money for work that was either poorly done or never started, Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns.

BBB has advised consumers to exercise extreme caution when dealing with Govero, who appears to be from the Farmington area. Govero's full name is Lawrence Dean Govero.

"He came across like a guy who knew what he was doing, but when it came time to do the work he was nowhere to be found," said a consumer from Farmington. The consumer said he paid Govero $800 to install a new bathtub and fixtures, but Govero never did any work.

HTL Contracting has an "F" rating with BBB, the lowest possible. The business has logged 12 customer complaints since July 2014. Ten of those have not been answered.

Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said Govero's case is typical of contractors that promise the moon, but then just walk away. Corey said Govero's actions are even more reprehensible because several of the consumers who filed complaints with BBB are struggling financially and cannot afford to hire another contractor to do the work.

"This man should be ashamed of himself, and he needs to do the right thing by honoring his commitments," Corey said.

An HTL customer said she hired Govero in early November to make repairs on a home she was buying in Bloomsdale, in Ste. Genevieve County. She said she initially paid $500, but later gave Govero another $750 when he pleaded that he needed money so his workers could buy Christmas gifts for their families. After Govero completed a small portion of the contracted work, she said she never heard from him again. She has not received a refund.

A customer from Bonne Terre, said she paid Govero $2,500 in November to replace electrical wiring in her attic and basement and lay a linoleum floor in her kitchen. She said the floor was completed, but it began buckling within weeks and likely will have to be replaced. Some of the wiring was done, but she is so concerned about the quality of the work that she is afraid of a fire. "Every time I leave, I am worried my house is going to burn down," she said.

A woman from Park Hills, said she paid Govero more than $4,300 for a variety of projects at her home, but the work was never finished. "Our home is still torn up," she said. "He (Govero) needs to be stopped."

Several customers said they took their complaints to area law enforcement agencies, but the authorities told them the cases were civil matters and they could not get involved.

BBB has been unable to reach Govero, who most recently listed his address as a postal box in Farmington.

Govero was the focus of an investigative report on KMOV-TV in November, with complainants making allegations similar to those received by BBB. At that time, Govero said he was working on the issues. One had filed a lawsuit.

BBB offers the following tips for consumers looking to hire a contractor:

• Research the business and owners carefully before signing a contract or paying any money. Check the company's BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.

• Ask for references and contact them.

• Before paying anything, make sure you have a signed contract outlining exactly what work is to be done, a timetable for completion and an explanation of what happens if either the business or consumer reneges on the agreement.

• Ask the contractor for proof that he or she is bonded and insured.

• Pay by credit card whenever possible in case you need to challenge the payment.

• Do not pay everything in advance. It is a good rule to pay a third when you sign the contract, another third midway through the job and the final payment after you are satisfied with the completed work.

• Make sure you have received lien waivers showing that workers, subcontractors and materials suppliers have been paid for the job.

BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. All BBB services to consumers are free. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Reviews on more than 4.7 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information.

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