Woman pays contractor $23,000, contractor walks away without doing the work

PLAINFIELD, Ind. – A Hendricks County woman is pleading for help after she says a contractor took her money and ran.

Kit Bowermaster wanted to add a master bedroom to her home. She needed the space because her entire family lives in her one-level home.

“I was trying to get some stuff done around here and I had enough left I thought to build a room and get us all re-situated,” she said. “I’ve got my three grandsons, my daughter, myself, my husband, her boyfriend all live here. We don’t have a lot of room.”

Bowermaster did her research and ultimately found a contractor on Angie’s List. In September 2017, she signed a contractor with Otis Johnson and his company, Renovations Plus, LLC.

“The contract required half up front,” Bowermaster explained.

Bowermaster paid Renovations Plus thousands of dollars upfront. The contractor, though, kept texting her saying he couldn’t make it to the job site. Texts show he used several excuses, including the weather, from the get-go.

In the spring of 2018, Johnson made Bowermaster--the client--pull permits in order for him to start building. Eventually Johnson went out to the home, removed an access door and dug a 16x16 hole in her backyard. The contractor installed 2x4s and it finally looked as though work was starting on Bowermaster’s addition.

More than a year later, Bowermaster says Johnson has yet to return. He has texted her multiple times over the last couple of months saying why he couldn’t return to her home. At one point, he promised a “top-notch bedroom.” Bowermaster figured out that the contractor probably wasn’t coming back. In all, she had already paid him $23,000.

“That was the rest of my 401k,” she said disappointed. “I have nothing left.”

Bowermaster, who worked her entire life at Walmart, is now struggling. She was diagnosed with cancer and continues to receive treatment.

“This was the last thing I needed,” she said.

Bowermaster called the CBS4 Problem Solvers hoping to get some help. CBS4 found out that Otis Johnson does not have an active license in Hendricks County, meaning he is not allowed to pull building permits nor does he have any insurance bonds to cover cases like this.

CBS4 went to Johnson’s listed business address and found out it was his home. Our reporters knocked, but no one answered. We then tried calling Johnson but had to leave a voicemail.

Finally, Johnson texted back, explaining he’s had some personal issues.

“Trying my best to feed six kids,” he said. “Didn’t know how to handle it. Embarrassed and pretty much ashamed. Just getting back on my feet.”

Johnson promised to “make it right,” saying he would either start paying the family back or do the work. He apologized to Bowermaster but has not said anything since.

CBS4 reached out to several contractor groups to see if anyone could help Bowermaster finish her bedroom addition. Our reporters also put her in touch with an organization, hoping she could find a pro bono attorney.

The Hendricks County prosecutor said this case could fall under fraud. Bowermaster filed a police report and officers are investigating to see if it qualifies as a criminal case.

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