‘This is not ok with us’: As North Idaho contractor intends to file for bankruptcy, former clients say they want their money back

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — Nearly a month after Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden announced a settlement with North Idaho contractor Alex Welstad, Welstad’s former clients are still seeking justice.

The AG’s office accused Welstad of taking more than $790,000 from his customers and that he violated the state Consumer Protection Act and Idaho Rules of Consumer Protection.

Welstad denied these allegations and agreed to the consent judgment “for the sole purpose of efficiently and economically resolving the Attorney General’s concerns about Defendants’ business practices as of the effective date of this Consent Judgment.”

Welstad did business under the names NAA Partners LLC and Mammoth Pole Buildings.

Though this settlement requires Welstad to pay restitution to his affected clients, according to the AG’s office, Welstad plans to file for bankruptcy, which doesn’t sit well with his former clients who spoke to 4 News Now.

“I’d love to have my building fixed. I’d love to have my money returned and I would love Alex to be served justice,” said Jennifer Bartley.

Bartley says she entered into an agreement with Welstad’s company last year but is out $35,000 with no word on when or if she’ll recover that money.

“The building funds that we had set aside to finish this building ended up going to paying for attorney fees, legal fees, filing fees, all of that. It’s kind of left us in a hole,” said Bartley.

Bartley said Welstad started working on her shop in August of 2021 but stopped working in November, only leaving behind a wooden structure and materials on her St. Maries property.

Bartley planned to live in the shop with her family but says Welstad’s unfinished work left her, her husband and two teenage sons living in their trailer all winter.

“The trailer is getting very small by the day. Our boys are growing, they’re teenagers and it was supposed to be a temporary situation,” said Bartley.

The St. Maries mother showed us a 36-page report conducted by a forensic engineer through her insurance company, detailing “shoddy workmanship” and multiple defects throughout the structure but she said her insurance claim was denied.

“I think the amount of people that have come forward that have been victimized by him speaks volumes,” said Bartley.

4 News Now obtained public records with screenshots of Mammoth Pole Building’s website, showing Welstad claimed to be bonded in Washington, Idaho and Montana. The website has since been taken down.

A report filed with the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office in January 2022 shows Welstad was under investigation.

Yet, a supplemental narrative report written by a detective on May 6, 2022 says the Prosecutor’s Office indicated they were declining prosecution and described Welstad as “a very poor businessman” but that “his conduct does not rise to violation of Idaho law.”

Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh declined to go on camera but in an email between him and more than 50 others dated June 7, 2022 says Sheriff Norris has assigned a detective to conduct an additional investigation and when that work is finished, “my office will review the information and make a charging decision.”

The e-mail chain was started by a realtor from Western Washington, Nathaly Burnett.

Burnett says her retirement property in North Idaho is now in limbo.

She even provided an audio exchange between her, her husband and Welstad that she says took place at Welstad’s office in Coeur d’Alene.

Burnett: No, you don’t understand, this is not ok with us.

Burnett’s husband: We’re working class stiffs. That’s our retirement.

Burnett: That’s half of what it’s costing us to put in–

Welstad: Yeah, but I’m looking at jail time if I don’t give you guys this sh*t back.

Burnett: Exactly.

Burnett believes the current laws favor contractors more than consumers.

“The contractor can put a lien on your house if you don’t pay them but if the contractor doesn’t do the work, you have to spend more money, you have to sue them,” Burnett said.

Burnett posted her experience on a Facebook page and says she has personally spoken to nearly 55 people who claim to have been victimized by Welstad.

She says she plans to start a non-profit to help others who fall victim to shady contractors and intends to fundraise for Welstad’s neediest victims.

“I would like to see contractors required to put their deposits into a trust account and they’re only allowed to take that money out when they’re working on the building,” Burnett said.

Attorney General Wasden’s settlement says his office is still taking complaints in Welstad’s case until June 23, which can be filed here or by calling 208-334-2424

When hiring contractors, the Idaho AG recommends consumers to:

  • Get contractor referrals from friends and family.
  • Read the contractor’s business profile on the BBB’s website, paying particular attention to any unresolved complaints and negative customer comments.
  • Check with the Attorney General’s Office for complaints and enforcement actions involving the contractor.
  • Read consumer comments posted online and on social media.
  • Get multiple bids for projects.
  • Understand what information a contractor must disclose under Idaho Code § 48-525.
  • Verify the contractor has liability and worker’s compensation insurance.
  • Obtain a surety bond to cover potential losses, along with extended title insurance and a lien waiver to prevent unwarranted liens.
  • Use an escrow agent to disburse funds to the contractor as work is completed.
  • Obtain a list of the subcontractors who provided goods and services for the project.
  • Keep an eye on the project’s progress and the work being done.

Residents in Washington can verify a contractor here or file complaints through this link.

Despite our attempts to reach out to Welstad through text, phone and e-mail, he has not responded to 4 News Now in this investigation.