House of Horrors
Updated Sat. Nov. 18 2006 6:32 PM ET
Katherine Janson, W-FIVE
It's a sight Greg and Myrna Parisian could never have imagined, their home being reduced to rubble.
"It's pretty bad to watch the first couple of crunches. Twenty five years of your life, gone. It's pretty bad," says Greg, as he watches the steel claws chew through their family home in Regina, Saskatchewan.
"We were just trying to improve what we had and now we have to start over," says Myrna.
What was he like?
"Very nice, very accommodating. He seemed to know what he was doing, he showed up in a nice shiny truck and he presented himself very well. He said he had 25 years experience lifting houses."
The contractor made a good first impression -- his company, LW Construction, promoted itself as "Building with Integrity." The Parisians signed a contract for $30,395 and paid him a total of $15,247.
They didn't exactly get what they paid for.
"He phoned me at 1:21 ... I'll never forget it," recalls Myrna. "He says, 'are you sitting down?' And he said, 'your house fell.' I said, 'what do you mean my house fell?' I said 'I don't understand.' And he said, 'uh, it fell ... but nobody got hurt.' Then I realized it had fallen into the hole."
The Parisians house had collapsed.
When Greg arrived at the site he couldn't breathe. "I was just in shock."
The man behind the job
The Parisians discovered some disturbing things. They'd been given a phony name, and phony credentials. William Kurk is not an engineer. But they knew they were in real trouble when they asked him to return their deposit.
"Never [saw] him again," says Myrna. "I tried phoning, he never answered my calls.
That's when the couple turned to lawyer Ken Noble to help them out. It didn't take him long to find out LW Construction was really 101063716 Saskatchewan Ltd., a numbered company controlled by Kurk's girlfriend, Leslie Moldenhauer.
"The question was, who are we really dealing with here?" says Noble.
At first, Greg and Myrna thought they were the victims of an incompetent contractor. But they soon found out it was much worse. Their contractor, it turns out, is a con man.
A trail of destruction
Ted Goodnough hired LW Construction to build five low-income houses in downtown Regina. He also thought he was dealing with Will Koch, and an engineer. It didn't take long to find out the contractor was constantly cutting corners. With the houses behind schedule and still unfinished, Goodenough replaced LW Construction and hired qualified contractors to finish the job, disgusted by the misrepresentation.
"That people would take advantage of an affordable housing project ..." says Goodnough.
W-FIVE's investigation eventually led us from Regina to northern Saskatchewan and the community of Candle Lake, where Kurk's alleged victims include a bank and the Saskatchewan government.
"He was very smooth, very energetic," says Gerald Aalbers, who joined Kurk -- whom he knew as Bill Koch -- in a new business venture called Titan Environmental.
Kurk impressed Aalbers: "He [said he] had attended engineering college at the University of Alberta. He had worked in the oil patch, he had worked in the mining industry. He had worked for some fairly major companies doing environmental work." Aalbers says he bought Kurk's story hook, line and sinker.
And so did Gerald's friend Trevor Worley. Worley owns a farm equipment business in Melfort, Saskatchewan. Gerald introduced Trevor to his new partner, "Bill Koch."
"He was great. Very personable, friendly, wanting to do business," says Worley, who later gave Kurk $27,000 worth of snow buckets to sell for him, with the understanding that he would be paid back later. He never saw Kurk again.
Plus, there was the day a stranger showed up at Worley's shop, looking for Kurk to collect money Kurk owed him.
"When we finally calmed him down, (we realized) he was under the impression that Bill owned this place," says Worley. "Then I knew I was in big trouble. He has absolutely nothing to do with (my) business."
Theft. Misrepresentation. Outright lying. Back in Candle Lake, Gerald Aalbers says his partner was forging his signature.
"There's a contract, a Saskatchewan Highways Department contract that has my signature on it that I never signed. I never saw that document," says Aalbers.
In the spring of 2004, Titan Environmental had won a contract with the Saskatchewan Department of Highways to replace a road culvert, a big job worth more than $100,000. That contract led to a string of criminal charges against William Kurk. The RCMP has 17 charges against William Kurk, confirmed Sgt. Bradley Kaeding. The allegations include making and using forged government documents, forging a bank manager's signature, and forging Gerald Aalbers' signature.
"Welcome to Saskatchewan," says Aalbers. "People are very genuine, in most cases ... a handshake, a verbal agreement goes to work. People go to work every day on that, on the trust. He's very good at what he does -- and that's con people."
And William Kurk has been conning people for 20 years. Hundreds of pages of court records amassed by W-FIVE detail a litany of charges, convictions and evidence. W-FIVE found a copy of a worthless cheque Kurk passed when he was only 19, to buy a pair of speakers. He'd already been charged with fraudulent use of his father's credit card.
When Kurk got that job in Candle Lake, he was on probation -- sentenced in 2001 for defrauding several parties including three banks. In a weird twist, the name of the judge who sentenced him, Koch, eventually became Kurk's alias. It was the name he was using when he destroyed the Parisians' bungalow.
Setting out to find him
W-FIVE set out to catch up with him.
The first step is to track down Leslie Moldenhauer, his girlfriend. We catch up with her at a recycling depot outside Regina, but she tells us "you know what? I can't help you," and she drives away.
Moldenhauer won't tell us where to find Kurk, but she does give us an important clue. We follow her to a residential construction site, where a foundation sits on an empty lot. Apparently, it's deserted. But then a worker shows up.
W-FIVE's Victor Malarek asks the worker if he knows where we can find Bill Kurk.
"I heard he was in Alberta," says the worker. He says Kurk's never been on the site.
We're not sure whether he's telling the truth or not and we want to know more about this job. So, with the help of a friendly neighbour, we catch up with the lot's owner, Gust Kutsogiannis.
Who did he contract to build this new home? "A fellow by the name of Bill Kurk," says Kutsogiannis. "He told me he'd have this place ready in three months."
Kutsogiannis, a real estate investor, has given his contractor $42,000 so far. He says he didn't know anything about the Parisians' house collapse -- which made the local news -- until after he'd signed on with Kurk. And, he says, he didn't know anything about Kurk's history.
"I took him at face value," he says.
It's been almost three months and the house is nowhere close to being done. So where is William Kurk?
Following our leads
We've also been told that Kurk drives an expensive black pickup truck and there it is in the driveway of their White City home. We must be getting close, so W-FIVE gives the home phone a ring and Moldenhauer answers. She is still not going to help us find Kurk.
"Will was a sub-contractor for me end of discussion," Moldenhauer says. "He does not work for me anymore." She does have construction jobs going, but Kurk doesn't work on any of them, she says.
But Kutsogiannis has just told us he hired Kurk to build his house. She confirms that she lives with Kurk, but that she doesn't know where he is or what sort of work he's doing. "I have no idea," she says. "You'll have to ask him when you can find him."
So we follow all the leads we have. We check out his storage centre, no sign of him. We check out the LW Construction telephone number, it's not in service. We call the cell phone number Kutsogiannis has for him, we leave a message.
Everywhere we look, we find people who know William Kurk but say they have no idea where the contractor is. Even his lawyer, whose name is listed on recent court documents, tells us he "can neither confirm nor deny I act for him."
It seems obvious that Kurk does not want to be found by W-FIVE. So we go back to the obvious place to look -- his home in White City.
W-FIVE's Victor Malarek mounts his steps to ring the bell.
Reporter Victor Malarek does get a brief glimpse of Kurk before he slams the door. The man who some told us was in Alberta is there, at his own house. He suddenly leaves in his truck and we attempt to follow him, then lose Kurk as he drives off.
The next day we find him again, working on Kutsogiannis' house. Finally, our chance to ask Kurk about his 20-year career as a Saskatchewan con man. But when he spots W-FIVE approaching the job site in a van, Kurk jumps up and runs the other way, disappearing behind the unfinished house.
The man Greg and Myrna Parisian haven't seen since his renovation brought their house down has just taken off again.
Picking up the pieces
"I think that these people did what most people, in fact more than most people, would do," says Noble. "They checked the fellow out. They got a referral. They did a check with the Better Business Bureau. You take people at face value and that's how people like con men are able to function."
Myrna says that when she sees how everything has unfolded, her thoughts on William Kurk are, "Well, his next name will be William Crook."
Greg and Myrna managed to save some of their things. And they have received some insurance money, but they're still out tens of thousands of dollars. Still, their story may yet have a happy ending. The good people of Regina have come to the rescue and the couple is excited about plans for a brand new home.
More than 70 local companies have donated labour and material to help build the Parisians a new home, and the Parisians are overwhelmed by the support of their community. "It makes you want to believe there's still heart in Regina," she says.
When Greg and Myrna walk down their old street to the place where they spent 25 years raising their family, they still find it hard to believe it's all gone. They will start over, all because they trusted a contractor who turned out to be an incorrigible con man.