KCBD Investigates: Lubbock sign company at the center of disputes with local church and small business owner

Published: Nov. 8, 2023 at 10:55 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 9, 2023 at 6:57 AM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - A Lubbock church is in the middle of a months-long battle with a local sign company.

The pastor at St. Luke’s Church said they hired LED Liquidator to take down an old sign at its 98th and Frankford campus and install a new one.

They signed the contract in April.

As the KCBD Investigates Team began looking into this, we learned a small business owner in Plainview experienced something similar earlier this year.

Monte Neil said his family started Weekends BBQ in 2006.

“I was in fifth grade,” Neil said. “There’s pictures of me climbing on the smokers because I couldn’t reach them to get them all the way open.”

Neil said he and his sister worked at the family restaurant through high school and then moved away to go to college.

“While we were in college, my mom was terminally ill, and my dad was taking care of the business and her at the same time,” Neil said.

A few years ago, Neil moved back to Plainview to take over the family business.

“About two years ago, we started on this new project to expand it to a full-time, sit-down restaurant. Every screw and bolt, I’ve had something to do with it,” Monte said.

As Neil began to work on the new restaurant, he said Jared Castillo with LED Liquidator approached him about installing a sign.

“He represented himself very well at first. We ended up making the payment up front and signing the contract the only thing left to do was put together the artwork,” Neil said.

The contract is dated Aug. 26, 2022.

The cost of the sign and installation totaled $3,646.50.

While the delivery preference is marked “rush” there is no estimated delivery date.

Neil said that was communicated through text.

“We had discussed a ten-day time frame from the approval of the art,” Neil said.

Neil said he and Castillo went back and forth on the artwork for months, and a change ended up costing him an extra $351.81.

Neil said he paid that on January 4th through PayPal.

Neil said 10 days came and went and he still did not have a sign.

“We were doing our taxes for the year, and I asked him for a W-9 for our records. We spoke over the phone. He said, ‘No problem’ and that was the last real communication I had with him. He went radio silent,” Neil said.

By the end of February, Neil said he filed a dispute with PayPal, which Castillo did respond to.

“He responded saying that it was a change in artwork fee and it couldn’t be refunded. I responded saying there is no sign, there is no product to begin with, so I don’t know what he needed to change. As far as I am concerned this is a scam at this point,” Neil said.

Neil said PayPal refunded the $351.80, but he was still out the $3,646.50 and had no sign to show for it.

“A few months later, I get a phone call from Signs on the Go out of Lubbock. They said, ‘We have had these acrylic sign panels for several months now that Jared Castillo had made. We haven’t heard from him, we wanted to know if you still want these.’ I said, ‘Yeah actually I’ve been looking for those.’ We purchased the panels from them; he had not paid them either. We got them installed ourselves,” Neil said.

Neil said he filed a police report with the Plainview Police Department.

“The detective called me and said this is going to be a civil matter going forward, and we spoke with our attorneys. Basically, the consensus was it was going to cost more time and effort than what we would really get out of it,” Neil said.

We called Jared Castillo who declined to interview with us, but said he never authorized Signs on the Go to print the sign for Weekends BBQ.

Castillo also told us since Neil received a partial refund through PayPal, that made the contract null and void.

We called Signs on the Go, but an employee there told us Castillo did order the sign, he just did not pay for it.

As this incident played out in Plainview, St, Luke’s Church in Lubbock began taking bids to replace a large LED sign at its south campus.

Tim Reese is a member of the church and volunteers on its Southwest Buildings Committee.

Reese said he came across LED Liquidator.

“At the time, everything seemed on the up and up,” Reese said.

Reese provided a copy of the contract the church signed on April 25, 2023, for a total of $18,375.

Reese said they paid a little more than $10,000 upfront as a deposit; money that came from the parishioners of the church.

“That is what hurts me the most,” Reese said.

The contract with the church also had the “rush” delivery option marked, but did not include an estimated delivery date.

“He said it would take about 6 weeks for delivery at the time of signing,” Reese said.

Reese said when they still did not have a sign by June, he became suspicious.

He said Castillo answered church members’ phone calls initially, but then it became difficult to get in touch with him.

St. Luke’s filed a police report and a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, which has not given LED Liquidator an ‘F’ rating.

Monica Horton with the BBB confirmed there are two open complaints against LED Liquidator.

“The Better Business Bureau doesn’t necessarily hold it against a company if they receive a complaint. We realize that you cannot make all of your customers 100 percent happy 100 percent of the time,” Horton said.

Horton said a company can improve its score if it responds to complaints and puts forth a good-faith effort to resolve the issue.

“Until we receive a response to these complaints, the BBB will maintain our ’F’ rating,” Horton said.

The KCBD Investigates Team called Castillo on October 16 to find out what happened to St. Luke’s sign and money.

Castillo declined to interview but said the sign was being shipped from overseas and should arrive by the end of the month.

We called him again on November 2 and he said the sign was on the way and should be delivered by that night or the following day.

We called Castillo three times the following week, but he did not respond to our phone calls or text message.

We tried to track Castillo down at his business address, which is included in the contracts, but LED Liquidator isn’t there. Instead, we found a cleaning company. The owner said they’ve leased this space from S&Z Properties for nearly three years. We contacted the owner of S&Z Properties, who said he evicted Castillo years ago.

The pastor of St. Luke’s said someone with LED Liquidator texted him photos of a sign on Monday along with a message telling him the final touches were being made to his sign.

The pastor said he emailed a list of conditions he wants LED Liquidator to meet before he hands over the remaining $8,000.

As of Wednesday, the pastor said Castillo had not responded to that email.

In an earlier phone call with Castillo, he drew our attention to the fine print of the contract, which states, “If the merchant refuses or avoids delivery of the sign for whatever reason, the merchant will be liable for the full purchase price of the sign as well as all freight and storage charges, attorney fees, and all collection costs incurred.”

Reese said he cannot believe they are in this situation.

“I think it takes a special kind of person to want to do this to a church,” Reese said.

Horton offered tips for consumers.

She said to ask a company for references and actually call those customers instead of taking the company’s word for it.

She also encourages consumers to never pay for services upfront.

Horton said if the company asks for money for supplies and materials, the customer should ask if they can pay the supplier directly and have those supplies shipped to them instead of the contractor.

She also wants to remind consumers to get everything in writing.

We did call other shops in Lubbock that sell and install LED signs.

They said the delivery time is about six to 12 weeks.