GILLESPIE COUNTY, Texas - A Hill Country builder listed as a defendant in at least four civil lawsuits in Gillespie County is now under investigation by the Texas Attorney General's Office, according to multiple people associated with the case.
Nickles Wolfe, a Harper-based contractor who until recently ran his construction business under the name Saderz Construction, is accused of repeatedly taking payments for work and then abandoning the projects before they were completed properly.
The Defenders in recent weeks spoke to alleged victims in five counties, many of whom are now cooperating with an investigator with the Texas Attorney General's Criminal Investigations Division.
"He assured me that he had done stuff like this before, assured me everything was going to be OK, and it's completely under-built. Everything is overstressed," said Matt Mitchell, who hired Wolfe in October 2017 to build a carport-patio combination at his Kendall County home.
Mitchell said Wolfe's first mistake was deciding to remove a support beam from the architect's plan for the concrete-and-steel structure.
Mitchell said Wolfe and his crew then forgot to put up protective paper while pouring concrete, damaging walls, gutters, light fixtures and the roof of existing structures on the property.
The finished project: an unsturdy carport with bowed beams that will have to be torn down and rebuilt.
A structure that was supposed to cost a little under $18,000 to construct, will instead cost Mitchell more than $80,000 once it's been dismantled and rebuilt properly.
"I want him to stop doing this to people," said Mitchell, who has filed a small claims lawsuit against Wolfe as well as a criminal complaint with the Kendall County Sheriff's Office.
"It seemed like he had every excuse in the world not to show up."
Jonathon Logan hired Wolfe in March 2018 to build an enclosed barn and driveway in Gillespie County, but realized there would be issues with the project after Wolfe and his crew failed to remove concrete forms.
"It seemed like he had every excuse in the world not to show up," said Logan, a former California state prosecutor and Vietnam War veteran.
In Logan's case, Wolfe failed to install a ridge cap connecting both sides of the roof, failed to hook up electrical inside the building, did not install windows and left behind large piles of trash, despite accepting full payment for the project with the exception of a $2,000 completion fee.
"I wrote what I thought was a good crime report," said Logan, who began cooperating with law enforcement last summer and currently has two small claims filed against Wolfe.
Wolfe, his company and his wife are also defendants in Gillespie County lawsuit filed in October that seeks more than $1 million in damages.
An attorney representing the plaintiff in that case told the Defenders that he was able to depose Wolfe over the failed ranch project last month and in all likelihood will turn over the deposition to law enforcement officials, based on comments made by Wolfe while being questioned.
Another alleged victim who spoke to the Defenders via telephone said that he hired Wolfe to complete a road and house project in southeast Gillespie County.
The man said Wolfe did minimal work on the project before walking away.
The alleged victim said he was contacted by a criminal investigator with the Attorney General's Office on Jan. 24.
A fifth alleged victim, who owns a home in Kerr County, said he paid Wolfe $4,200 to build a fence and an automatic gate on his property, only to have Wolfe put the posts in the wrong place.
"I am a drop in the pan," said the man, who referred to Wolfe's performance on the project as "terrible workmanship."
The man has since filed a small claims lawsuit in Gillespie County against Wolfe and Saderz Construction, according to court records.
Wolfe's sixth alleged victim, a husband and wife living in San Angelo, hired Wolfe in January 2017 to build a barndominium on their ranch in Mason County.
A barndominium is typically a dual-purpose structure used for living and storage.
The woman said two years after hiring Wolfe, the project is still not finished despite him accepting $169,000 in payments.
"He's a con artist. He's a thief," the woman said.
A seventh alleged victim in Bexar County told the Defenders via telephone that he gave Wolfe a $44,000 down payment for a home rebuild in February 2017 after things went awry with a previous contractor.
The man said Wolfe bailed on the project and another builder who had worked with Wolfe took over. The man said he had to finish the home himself after Wolfe's replacement ran out of money.
Many of these individuals provided information to a sergeant with the Gillespie County Sheriff's Office.
He told the Defenders that at one point he was working seven cases against Wolfe in Gillespie and several surrounding counties.
"I've got them spread all over the place. I need to give it to somebody who has the resources to work it," the investigator said via telephone last month.
Lucy Wilke, the district attorney for the 216th Judicial District, confirmed via email that the AG's office has taken over the case:
Due to the amount of manpower available at the Gillespie SO, and their caseload, I offered to contact the Office of the Attorney General to solicit their assistance in conducting the investigation. The investigator handling the investigation at the Gillespie SO concurred with me contacting the OAG for that reason. The OAG was therefore contacted and the OAG has agreed to investigate the case. If the OAG finds that the cases involves criminal activity, the OAG will also prosecute the case.
Texas Comptroller records show Saderz Construction forfeited its right to transact business after encountering issues with missing reports and payments.
However, it appears Wolfe is now attempting to do construction work under a new name: Steen Steel Structures.
Steen is Wolfe's middle name, according to court filings and a background check.
A logo for the company appears on the Facebook page of Wolfe's wife, and two vehicles parked in front of their Harper home last month featured the company's logo, name and phone number.
No one responded to a voicemail left by the Defenders at that number.
The Defenders could find no record that Steen Steel Structures has been registered as a business in Texas.
Wolfe, who has not been criminally charged, did not respond to a request for comment.
His attorney, Thomas Carnes, said via telephone last month that he was unaware of the criminal investigation involving his client.
Carnes said it was also his policy not to comment on pending litigation.
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