Judge finds contractor accused of not finishing jobs in contempt of court

Customers of a Dorchester County contractor who they say didn’t finish the job believe accountability could be coming after he was a no-show in court.
Published: Nov. 6, 2023 at 5:00 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 6, 2023 at 6:48 PM EST
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DORCHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Customers of a Dorchester County contractor who they say didn’t finish the job believe accountability could be coming after he was a no-show in court for his bankruptcy case.

In an unusual move, Judge Elisabetta Gasparini found Ronald Brentt Ergle to be in civil contempt after he failed to appear for court hearings and provide requested financial documents.

He has also been sanctioned and ordered to pay the U.S. Trustee’s attorney’s fees, which now total $4,410.87.

Gasparini also stated in a hearing last week that she would order the U.S. Marshals Service to apprehend him in order to gain compliance.

“It’s very rare that these things happen,” bankruptcy specialist J. Ronald Jones Jr. said.

In his 35-year career, Jones says he has maybe seen the court take these extreme measures once or twice before.

Court documents state the judge believes he “appears to be abusing” the process and could possibly be hiding assets from his creditors.

That includes a safe “which may contain cash received as deposits for construction projects,” according to the U.S. Trustee’s testimony. This was not disclosed in bankruptcy filings but the U.S. Trustee assigned to the case, Michelle Vieria, said she believed it could be used to pay creditors.

“If they find that you have committed some kind of fraud and you’re continuing to do so by hiding your assets or not cooperating then, that’s a pretty bad place to be,” Jones said. “There are penalties for doing those sorts of things.”

Jones represents SouthState Bank, another creditor in the case, which received a judgment against Ergle in a state court for the repossession of a boat on which Ergle took out a loan of $60,568.78 and then failed to make payments.

A judge also ordered that Ergle owes attorney’s fees and interest owed in that case as well.

Ergle checked “no” in his filing when asked if he was in possession of any watercraft.

This all comes after customers were unsuccessful in pressing criminal charges and their civil cases had been halted by the bankruptcy proceedings.

The decision by the court was welcome news to the Kelleys, who have filed suit against Ergle.

“It’s silly, but you know, $30,000 is a lot of money,” Michelle Kelley said.

“We’re hoping that he doesn’t do this to anyone ever again. Criminal action would be great, but we’ll take what we can get,” Brian Kelley said.

He says he still has many outstanding questions for Ergle, including what happened with the money he gave him for a garage that never got built.

Ergle filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the end of May, as revealed in an investigation.

Court documents state he is accused of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from several customers who paid him upfront for construction projects and did not complete his contractual duties, many of which have been in touch with the trustee.

Ergle failed to call in to four court meetings via phone, the first of which was rescheduled after he emailed Vieria asking for more time.

Since then, she reported to the court that she had been unsuccessful at getting in touch again.

He did not arrive for an in-person hearing on Oct.19. and again failed to show up for another meeting last Thursday.

Ergle has not responded to a request for comment.