Brett Hensley sits in court at Bingham County on Thursday with a gray pullover by his attorney, Jeromy Pharis. | Andrea Olson, EastIdahoNews.com
BLACKFOOT — A 42-year-old American Falls man who allegedly took money from customers and did not finish the work promised to them faced a judge and witnesses in court Thursday.
Brett Hensley is the owner of Them Dang Builders LLC, according to court documents. The business builds structures like barns and shops.
He was originally charged in Bingham County with one count of felony grand theft, but that charge was amended to felony grand theft by false promise. The amended criminal complaint says the charge is “pursuant to a scheme to defraud.”
Hensley is facing additional charges that were filed on Wednesday in Power County. He is being charged with four felonies for grand theft from projects he allegedly never finished but got paid for, spanning from 2021 to 2022. The criminal complaint lists multiple people paid him different amounts of money, with one being as high as $60,000.
According to court records, in October 2022, Hensley personally filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and Them Dang Builders LLC is listed as an asset.
In documents, there are names of multiple people waiting for work to be done, but it’s listed as “business debt for unfinished work,” and “business debt with potential personal liability for unfinished work.”
On Friday, charges were additionally filed against Brett Hensley’s wife, Belinda Hensley, 36, in Power County. She is facing four charges of felony grand theft in relation to the business with her husband.
Attorney Jeromy Pharis and Brett Hensley in court. | Andrea Olson, EastIdahoNews.com
RELATED | Man facing grand theft charge after allegedly not finishing work he was paid for
The preliminary hearing
Hensley faced Magistrate Judge Cleve Colson along with several witnesses for a preliminary hearing regarding the Bingham County case.
The case revolves around Hensley being hired to do a job for Audrey Kendall and her husband, Kadin. They live in Bingham County and had hired Hensley to build a shop at their home. They spent $35,000.
“We hired Brett Hensley with Them Dang Builders. We wrote him a check … to hold our spot,” Kadin testified.
Kadin Kendall testifies in court. | Andrea Olson, EastIdahoNews.com
“It was Feb. 25 (2022) that we wrote a check for $17,500. He required a quarter of the payment down,” Audrey said.
Audrey testified and said Hensley told them he could start in August 2022.
She said they had various conversations throughout the summer about the project. The conversations included that the Kendalls were on track to have their shop built in August.
“The closer it got to August, he said it was going to be November to build. We did not want to pour concrete in November … so he was gong to come out and set poles in August. We paid him a second payment — which he required before he came out — so we paid a second payment of $17,500 (on Aug. 5),” she said.
Audrey said Hensley had come one time to spray paint on the ground where the poles for the shop would be. At some point, he provided a hand drawing for the work, but it wasn’t the plan that the Kendalls had wanted for the shop.
Audrey Kendall testifies in court. | Andrea Olson, EastIdahoNews.com
Hensley did not come back to finish the work, they said. The Kendalls said Hensley told them he would but then was sick and pushed the project further.
On Aug. 26, the Kendalls wanted their money back.
“We drove to his home and requested our money back. He said that he would get us our money back on Monday. He said he needed to move some money around and he would give us a check on Monday,” Audrey said.
She said her husband had texted Hensley to ask him where he would like to meet Audrey to refund the money.
“He said that he would need to contact his attorney because he had too much time and money invested in our job,” she said.
Hensley’s attorney, Jeromy Pharis, asked Audrey if there was a signed contract.
“Just the original quote. His wife emailed me a contract after I gave him the second payment, which we did not sign,” she replied.
Pharis asked why she didn’t sign the contract.
“Because the contract said the $35,000 was non refundable but it was given to us after the fact of paying two payments,” she said.
Money was never returned and supplies were not produced, according to the Kendalls.
More witnesses testify
Another witness testified of a similar situation that had happened to her in November 2021, where she gave $30,000 to Hensley. But her story was similar to the Kendalls’ — the work kept getting pushed back. Nothing was produced in the end.
“I didn’t want to talk to Brett anymore because I had been lied to several times already,” Sharee Petersen said on the stand.
A friend of Hensley, Jesse Johnston, testified that he hired Hensley to build a barn on his property in Pocatello. He paid him $25,593 in March 2022.
“There was no contract. I was told it would happen in October 2022,” Johnston said.
He said Hensley came to his home sometime in June or July to put some shop doors in for him because it was included in the main quote. There was some ground prep done for the barn with a skid steer.
In September, Hensley notified Johnston that he would not return to continue with the barn and that the money was all gone.
“Immediately following that, as you can imagine, I was pretty upset. I gave him a large sum of money, and he told me it was gone along with everybody else’s money. I’ve known Brett on a personal level for several years. I consider him a good friend outside all of this, and I think that got me more upset than normal,” Johnston said.
Magistrate Judge Cleve Colson. | Andrea Olson, EastIdahoNews.com
Law enforcement was brought to the stand, including detective Talon McConnell from the Power County Sheriff’s Office, although this case focused on Bingham County. He testified that he investigated Hensley in October 2022 after he was told that Hensley had promised services to individuals in Power County and never followed through.
“He (Hensley) informed me that he kind of just got behind on jobs and overwhelmed with the jobs he was doing,” McConnell said.
Detective Travis Mayne with the Blackfoot Police Department took the stand and was questioned by Attorney Jared Anderson with the prosecutor’s office about the case involving the Kendalls.
Anderson asked, “Did you investigate Them Dang Builders LLC?”
He responded, “I did look into it…I went to the state of secretary website for the state of Idaho and looked up the business name and learned that their LLC had been dissolved on 2-19-2022.”
“The LLC dissolved, and he (Hensley) continued to operate … even though it had dissolved,” Mayne added.
Mayne also said that Hensley took money from the Kendalls and provided no service, which was theft.
Pharis then asked, “I mean, it’s not true to say that he provided no service correct?”
Mayne said he did not believe that.
Pharis asked, “Did he show up and mark the ground?”
Mayne did not agree it was a service.
In closing arguments, Anderson said Hensley never produced any of the supplies and did practically no work for the Kendalls.
“He would ask for money down … to pressure them to secure their spot. (He) never did produce the supplies and would come back and ask for additional money. In August, it was very clear that he had no intention of ever doing the work,” Anderson said.
Pharis said that multiple witnesses testified in court that Hensley showed up on jobs.
“Judge, he got behind. He should not have kept going, I agree with that. He probably should have cut ties, but he’s not trying to deceive anyone. He’s saying, ‘Look, I am so far behind. I’m telling these guys’ this is not an intent to deceive. This is a, ‘Holy crap, I don’t know how to get out of this hole,’ but the requirement is that there is probable cause to show there was in fact a scheme, and that just has not been shown,” Pharis said.
Pharis asked the judge for the charge to be dismissed.
“What has to be shown is that there was a criminal intent to defraud them. Not that he’s terrible at business intent. … Why we are here on a criminal case, I don’t understand it. I don’t think it meets the level of court is required to find even beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said.
Pharis shared examples of why the charge does not make sense. Watch the closing arguments above.
After a short five minute break, Colson ruled the case would continue and bound Hensley to district court for an arraignment scheduled on June 12 at 1 p.m. at the Bingham County Courthouse.
“There was no intent by you, Mr. Hensley, to complete that job or at any point, start that job so at this point, the court finds by preponderance of the evidence that the state has satisfied its burden here today,” Colson said.
The charge is punishable by up to 14 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
As for the other grand theft charges Hensley is facing in Power County, an arraignment is scheduled on June 5 at 12 p.m. at the Power County Courthouse. Belinda Hensley is scheduled for the same day and time.
Though they have been charged with these crimes, it does not necessarily mean they committed them. Everyone is presumed innocent until they are proven guilty.
RELATED | ‘He shattered our dreams’: Homeowners, investors accuse contractor of fraud (separate case)
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