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Consumer Watch: Business Leaves Family Scrambling For Shelter From The Storm

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BLAINE COUNTY, Oklahoma -

Richard Rice's storm shelter has seen better days. After all, it's been in his family for more than 100 years. That's why he thought it was a good time to invest in a new one for himself and his wife Nancy.

"We wanted to feel like we had something that's new and secure and absolutely, totally reliable," Richard Rice said.

Back in May, they hired Tornado Shelters of Oklahoma out of Ada to install a new slope front storm shelter. They promised the work would be finished in 30 days or less, under one condition.

"They told her in order to get us on the list they needed a deposit," Rice said. "That deposit happened to be $3100.

So the Rices put half down and waited. Three weeks went by until finally Richard called Tornado Shelters of Oklahoma.

"I started getting nervous because when they start stammering around and we will, uh, have to get back with you," Rice said. "From that point on, I consistently got the same runaround."

The Rices took the owner, Forest Zudell, to small claims court and won, but have yet to see a dime.

"He knows he's a liar. He knows he's a scammer," Rice said. "Why would a person choose a lifestyle like this. It's a lot easier to do things honestly."

That's when the Rices contacted Consumer Watch.

"If anybody in Oklahoma can pursue this with success," Rice said, "It would be you guys, Channel 9."

We immediately got on the phone and tracked down Forest Zudell, whose company now goes by Quality Buildings of Ada.

"I didn't know that job was sold," Zudell said. "I had a couple of people working for me taking people's deposits."

He said his workers promise of having the shelter installed within 30 days was unrealistic. He's since fired those workers and tells us the Rice's will have their refund by the first of December.

We checked with our friends at Flat Safe. They say before hiring any storm shelter company, check to see if they're FEMA certified. It's also a plus if they're members of the National Storm Shelters Association. Most reputable companies won't ask you to pay anything until the work is complete. However, a small down payment can be acceptable, but no more than 10%.

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