Multiple customers of a defunct GTA contracting company seek refunds and justice

A long list of people who hired a now defunct general contractor are speaking out as they seek refunds and justice. Pat Taney reports.

By Pat Taney

They were strangers just a few months ago but now a long list of people from across the GTA have formed quite a bond, though it’s not one they had set out to create. The circumstances bringing them all together have brought pain, frustration, and a loss of tens of thousands of dollars.

“Everyone feels like we’ve been ripped off to a really large degree,” said Zubair Khan.

Khan owns a home in Etobicoke and back in September, he hired TRT Masonry and General Contracting, owned by Trisztan Tarconi. Khan was looking to transform his basement into a living space for a price of $60,000.

“His references checked out, he had great reviews and was incredibly knowledgeable about what we needed to do to finish the project.”

According to the signed contract, work was to begin in October and be finished in six weeks. Khan paid a $24,000 deposit upfront.

“But sadly he didn’t do anything, he took the money but no work was done,” Khan told CityNews.

Around the same time, Francesco Ferro signed a contract with Tarconi and paid him $17,000 in deposit money. He was looking to build an addition, and do some demolition and structural work to his home in Vaughan.

“He did show up and did the demo work but we found major problems with the structural work he was hired to do.”

Those problems were discovered after Ferro hired another general contractor to inspect the work.

“There were major issues and when I reached out to Tarconi about this, he became very upset, he didn’t like that someone else was inspecting his work,” said Ferro.

Ferro said Tarconi eventually failed to show up to do any more work, giving him a list of excuses, blaming the weather and numerous health conditions.

“At one point he said his basement was flooded due to heavy rains at his home in Etobicoke, but there was no rain on the days he said this happened,” Ferro said. “He left behind a mess. There were construction materials littered across my property. He even left a construction bin in my driveway with no intention of picking it up.”

Ferro called the bin company to get it removed and was told he’d have to pay for it as they had not received any payment from Tarconi.

“I had to fight with the bin company for a week saying I already paid Tarconi, finally they picked it up.”

Ferro shared numerous text messages showing his attempts to get Tarconi back on the job.

“I was just trying to get him here to at least do enough work to recoup my deposit. But I could not even get him here to do that.”

So he then went online to post a review and included his contact information.

“And then I just started getting a bunch of emails from so many other people who were going through the same thing with this guy,” Ferro said.

That’s how he met Khan and several other people who had similar stories in their dealings with Tarconi.

Alec and Saba Balmer, from Ancaster, are among them. They paid Tarconi $16,000 in deposit money to build a garage.

It never happened.

“He kept telling us 10 workers would show up one day, they never did. Then the excuses kept piling up as to why he was not coming but I don’t think he had any intention of ever coming back.”

CityNews has confirmed six other customers of Tarconi with similar stories. All have tried to get their deposit money back, which according to their contracts, were due several months ago.

The Balmers even hired an attorney to send Tarconi a pre-litigation letter.

“We just wanted our deposit back but around the time this letter was sent, Tarconi disappeared.”

‘We were ghosted’

As more and more people began to contact Ferro after his review, a number of scorned customers began communicating with each other by creating a WhatsApp group.

“We shared our stories – it’s unfortunate we had to meet this way but we thought maybe collectively there was something we could do to go after this guy,” Ferro said.

But first they had to find him.

“Nobody in the group could get a hold of him,” Khan said. “He abruptly moved out of his residence. His company website is down, his phone number is cut off and emails are bouncing back.”

CityNews then began working to find Tarconi to get a response to the allegations and to see if these people would be getting back refunds.

His social media accounts were taken down as was his business website. The phone number associated with the business also did not appear to be in service.

After contacting family members, we were able to reach Tarconi by phone.

‘I’m not a scam artist”

In a recorded conversation, Tarconi admitted to each and every allegation the customers were making.

But he said he didn’t set out to take deposits and run.

“I’m not a scam artist,” he said. “I made bad decisions and things unfortunately went downhill. The business had to close and everything that could have gone sideways, went sideways for me.”

Tarconi started his business a few years back. He’s 24 now but said even at his young age, his company began on a good track.

Online reviews were mainly positive and there is a list of customers who worked with Tarconi who say his projects were started and completed successfully. Several online reviews boasted five-star ratings.

But in the fall of 2023, things took a turn and he said he had trouble keeping up with deadline schedules in contracts. Adding to the troubles, he said he was injured on a job site which set him back.

“It got to a point where I was forced to hire more staff in order for us to try and get out of this whole mess of running behind schedule,” he said. “So our expenses were very high.”

Then in October, he said he was contacted by the Canadian Revenue Agency. Tarconi said he did not file tax returns for two years.

“I’ve been behind in 2022 and 2023 GST/HST taxes. So that one was a huge hit.”

When asked for proof of a CRA notice in back taxes, Tarconi did not provide that to CityNews by the time this story was published.

“So I’m working with my accountant to give you that,” he told us.

He said he can’t refund deposits until he sorts out the money owed to the CRA, which he told us amounts to more than $100,000.

“I’m declaring bankruptcy for the amount I owe the CRA.”

He also did not provide documentation to prove a bankruptcy filing but said he’s in the process of applying for that protection this week by working with an insolvency agency.

“I could have filed bankruptcy for the debts I owe these people, but I decided not to.”

Instead, Tarconi claims to be working with his insolvency agency to pay back some of the deposit funds that he fully admits are owed to his former customers.

“I will most likely be trying to settle for a little bit less than what’s owed,” he told CityNews. “I’ll be aiming to give them back at least 80 per cent of their deposits.”

Tarconi went on to say that he understands the anger and frustration from customers and didn’t shy away from the blame.

“It’s their money, and all I can say is I’ve been working to find a solution to pay them back,” he told us.

Accusations of threats from both parties

As for moving away – to a location he would not disclose to us – and not answering text messages or calls, Tarconi said he did so after receiving threats.

Tarconi said someone came to his former home demanding to speak to him and scaring family members who were there. He also shared a text message from an unknown number.

“It said ‘May the Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on your being, for there is not a soul on earth who will defend you. There’s not a place you can hide,’” he read out. “I was worried about my family’s safety so thought I would cut off contact with everyone and work to pay back this money through a third party.”

Customers CityNews spoke with deny they made any threats of harm to Tarconi, but did promise to write bad reviews online. Ferro and others say Tarconi is the one who threatened them.

In a text message exchange Ferro shared a picture of a large hole left on his property from unfinished work. Tarconi’s response to Ferro reads, “If I were you, I would cut that attitude off real quick before you end up in there.”

Tarconi admitted to writing that, calling his response unnecessary.

“I was angry and we had been arguing back and forth with this guy but that response was not necessary,” he told CityNews. “I was under a lot of pressure but I really have tried to settle this properly. I’m not a bad person. I’ve made some bad decisions in the business and I was not being careful enough at budgeting. But I never set out to just steal money and run.”

As for getting their money back, customers remain hopeful but have doubts.

“We’ve all been promised this would happen, he kept telling us the money’s coming but it never does,” Balmer said.

Customers have filed police reports in at least five different regions. Police in Toronto, Peel and Hamilton have confirmed with CityNews they are looking into the allegations but no charges have been laid.

Customers say they learned hard lessons

All of the customers CityNews spoke with felt as though they did their due diligence before hiring Tarconi. They say he did have good reviews and during the interview process, he seemed knowledgeable and experienced.

“He had social media pages with videos of him and his crews on work sites, some of us visited sites where he did work,” Khan said. “There was nothing to indicate we were going to end up in this mess.”

But the one thing each customer admits they should’ve reconsidered was handing over hefty deposits immediately after signing their contracts.

Consumer Protection of Ontario (CPO) recommends keeping down payments to a minimum of no more than 10 per cent of the total quoted project.

“Talk to their contractor about how they’ll deal with any disagreements or disputes. Ideally, this should be addressed in your contract,” the CPO said.

They also recommend checking to make sure your contractor pays applicable taxes and to avoid cash deals.

It makes sense, in hindsight for Tarconi’s customers, but doesn’t make their circumstances any better. All are left to hire new contractors to finish, or in some cases, start the work they paid him to do, albeit with their sense of security shaken.

“It’s kind of discouraging, and it makes us feel like, how can you ever trust someone again to work on your home?” Balmer said.

If you have an issue, story or question you’d like us to look into, reach out to CityNews here.

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