'There's literally nothing you can do': Dieppe couple say they lost thousands to bad reno

By the time Allix and Sabrina Laffoley figured out the carpenter working on their home was Mark Garland, who also goes by Mark Charles, it was too late.

CBC News has reported on four instances of allegations of theft and incompetent work by Garland.

Last spring, the Laffoleys wanted stairs built at their former home before they sold it and a sun shelter built at their business. They responded to an ad they found on Kijiji advertising a "female carpenter with crew."

Donna Stadnyk told the couple that she worked with two men and introduced them simply as Jerry and Mark. Surnames weren't asked for or given.

The couple says Garland did most of the work and nearly all of the talking.

Jerry stopped showing up early on, Allix said, and Donna was only on site periodically, but things went smoothly. When it came time for upgrades at the couples' new home, calling the crew back made sense. 

Stadnyk and her crew "did everything on time, on budget," Sabrina said. "So we asked them to do our fence, our siding and a roof."

Off to a rocky start

With Allix pregnant with the couple's first child, they wanted all the work done in time for their September due date. 

Work on the fence started May 4 and Sabrina called it "a little rocky." There were delays and the project came in over budget, the couple said, but the fence got built. 

The couple's concerns started to grow when Garland moved to the siding project.

Tori Weldon/CBC

They said they paid for insulation as part of the project's costs, but Garland later told them it wasn't necessary. The insulation, for under the new siding, hadn't been written into the contract. 

The Laffoleys' wariness grew when Garland reacted with incivility to any concerns they raised.

"We got a whole lot of backlash any time we had any questions for them," Sabrina said. 

Then work came to a standstill in mid-June, when Garland told the Laffoleys he was in hospital. A month went by with nothing done.

Cracks start to show

"He was like 'I'll be there tomorrow, I'll be there tomorrow,'" said Sabrina.

In mid-July, Garland returned to the house and put in a few days of work. The couple said they were so happy to see progress, they agreed to give Garland money to buy roofing materials in addition to the roof deposit — $5,700 in total.

"Then they stopped coming," said Sabrina.

She said she managed to get in contact with Garland one last time by phone on July 20. 

It's not about getting the money back, it's about this man is just walking around committing crimes and we're being told it's not a crime. - Allix Laffoley

"He pinned the entire thing on his partner," said Sabrina. She said Garland told her Stadnyk lied about ordering the materials and ran off with the money.

Stadnyk did not reply to a request for an interview.

The Laffoleys don't know what really happened, but despite promises that he would finish the job, Garland didn't return.

They said he was out of contact until last Thursday, the day CBC News contacted Garland for an interview. Allix said he texted her, in part: "Back off, contact me and I will have you charged."

When contacted for this story, Garland admitted he did work on the job site, but, "it wasn't under me, that contract."

He did not agree to an interview.

Other allegations

Much of the Laffoleys' budget was gone, and there were more expenses to come.

Left wondering how things went so wrong, Allix and Sabrina turned to the internet. They learned that Garland has a history of angry complaints and reviews from past customers.

CBC has spoken to four of Garland's previous customers, each with allegations of theft of materials and cash deposits; unfinished jobs, and an inability or unwillingness to do a job properly.

Each of the customers, including the Laffoleys, called the police, but no charges have been laid. 

"At this point it's not about getting the money back, it's about this man is just walking around committing crimes and we're being told it's not a crime," said Allix. 

It was pretty obvious that whoever was doing their project just wasn't competent enough to do it.  - Leo Noel, ALN Construction

The New Brunswick RCMP won't comment.

Sabrina filed a claim in small claims court against Donna Stadnyk because her name is on the contracts, but she doesn't expect to see any money.

If the court awards a claimant money, it is the claimant's responsibility to get it. Two former customers have already won small claims against Garland, who has told CBC he does not intend to pay.

"No wonder people walk around robbing each other," said Allix. "It is just crazy to me that there's literally nothing you can do."

Starting over

With the siding work only two-thirds completed and the roof job untouched, the Laffoleys decided to move on and turn their attention to preparing the house for the new baby.

They hired Leo Noel, owner of ALN Construction, who made an exception to his practice of not openly criticizing another contractor's work.

Leo Noel

"It was pretty obvious that whoever was doing their project just wasn't competent enough to do it," Noel said. 

"We stripped the house down, pretty much down to the bare bones."

He said if Garland had finished the job, the Laffoleys would most likely be running into water damage within a few years. 

The Laffoleys are happy with how their home turned out, but it didn't come cheaply.

"We really had to pay for the whole renovation twice," said Sabrina. 

Baby fund

It was money the couple had earmarked for a more important project. As a same sex couple, it costs thousands of dollars to conceive. They had saved $6,000 for a second child. 

"That's completely gone," said Sabrina.

The Laffoleys describe it as heartbreaking.