I worked on three Iowa City, Iowa construction projects with Todd Michael von Stein and his associates between July 2008 and December 23, 2008. During that time he accumulated our invoices in excess of $10,000 for which we were not paid in full.
I did a public records search on Mr. von Stein at the following web address:
In the last/firm field, I used the following search criteria:
von stein, vonstein, Design Shoppe and Design Street
I found approximately 60 cases in a variety of legal suits against him. In one case he was convicted of theft in the 1st degree with a sentence of 10 years in prison and restitution in excess of $142,000. Records appear to indicate that he spent only a few days in jail and still owes approximately $58,000 on that case alone. According to the public record, he still owes in excess of $200,000 in judgments. In the meantime, many of the plaintiffs, who are hardworking and honest people, have received little restitution while Mr. von Stein walks away and appears to continue his pattern.
In many cases, when presented with an invoice or request for payment, he will promise payment by a certain date or say that the checks are going out (on a certain date) and rarely do they appear in the mail.
We filed mechanic's liens on two of the properties in an attempt to collect. On the first property, the owner was very upset about the lien, but made immediate payment once he understood the entire story behind Mr. von Stein his company.
On the second property, we delivered notice of lien, and expressed our concerns with Mr. von Stein. We said that we had not been paid for any work done since the start of the project 3 months ago. Surprised, the owner said that Mr. von Stein had already received $35,000 on the contract. We explained the lien and suggested that she needed to be sure the subcontractors were paid before Mr. von Stein received final payment.
Upon hearing of the news that we had visited with the owner, Mr. von Stein's associate contacted us with threats of restraining orders and claimed the lien wasn't valid, BUT asked that we remove it immediately. I'm not sure why the associate was so concerned about an INVALID lien. We informed the associate that upon receipt of full payment for services performed on the property, we would gladly release the lien, but only after their check cleared the bank. We were told that the check was mailed on January 5, 2009. By January 7, 2009, the check had not arrived and we told the associate of such. First class mail delivery is only one day from Des Moines to Iowa City. The associate told the owner that we had received the money. The owner then called my business partner and he explained that we hadn't gotten the money and that we would gladly release the lien when certified funds were received from Mr. von Stein.
It is my opinion that the check was never mailed by Mr. von Stein. He and his associate have used the "check is in the mail" and "you will get paid" excuses many times since my association with him. The money rarely appears. On all three jobs with Mr. von Stein, there has been difficulty collecting on work performed. Other subcontractors have and are currently having problems, as well. With a 20-year track record of similar behavior, I believe that NOBODY should trust Mr. von Stein in ANY business dealings.
Mr. von Stein is incredibly persuasive, so beware of him. He will sell himself and his services using his "integrity" as a key selling point. I believe that nothing could be farther from the truth. His track record proves that.
According to the Iowa Secretary of State website, Mr. von Stein has no legal interest in Design Shoppe dba Designsmith. Pamela J. George has 100% interest. That information can be found at the following website:
Search criteria: Design Shoppe
If you are currently doing business with him and are owed money, the use of a mechanic's lien will get his attention and, hopefully, assure payment. Information on mechanic's liens can be found in the Iowa Code Section 572. This information can be found at the following web address:
My rip-off report deals with Todd von Stein only, but the consumer should be aware of other general contractors who could do the same thing. ALWAYS check out anyone with whom you intend to do business.
Please, do your due diligence on Todd Michael von Stein. Ask around, research him online and hopefully you will find enough information to make the intelligent decision to use extreme caution with him.
Iowa City, IA, Iowa