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Unlicensed plumber with multiple complaints charged with theft by deception

Robert Ashcraft is accused of taking $1,700 for a plumbing job and doing no work at all.
Published: Dec. 17, 2021 at 4:26 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - In Kentucky, you can’t work as a doctor, lawyer, or even as a plumber without a state license.

Those laws are meant to protect consumers from hiring professionals who lack the required training.

But WAVE 3 News found one plumber who’s left a river of complaints behind his work.

Robert Ashcraft has been charged with theft by deception for taking $1,700 dollars upfront from a Louisville homeowner for materials and doing no work at all.

After WAVE 3 News started researching, the complaints poured in as if a pipe had burst.

To get answers, we set up an appointment with Ashcraft ourselves.

Ashcraft showed up 20 minutes early to our appointment for an estimate to install a new garbage disposal at a WAVE producer’s home.

“We’ll do the disposal on this side, and then an in and an outlet on this side,” Ashcraft said.

He sized up the job and quoted us his price.

“You said you got somebody to do the electric?” asked Ashcraft.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Well, I’ll just charge you $150 to put it in,” Ashcraft said.

Our investigation found Ashcraft isn’t supposed to be plumbing at all. Kentucky’s Division of Plumbing said he’s never been licensed.

“Robbie, I’m Mark Stevens with WAVE 3,” I introduced myself.

And as we started to ask about that, Ashcraft began to run, but more on that further down in the story.

Customers told WAVE 3 News Ashcraft said he was licensed. They gave us a picture of his business card.

“He was a licensed plumber, and if I ever needed a water heater, give me a call,” Ronald Milam said.

“Spoke up that he was a master plumber,” Pam Martin said.

“I found out he didn’t have a plumber’s license,” Eric Shipp said.

Shipp hired Ashcraft to install a sink, a gas line, and some cabinets for a kitchen remodel back in June. Shipp gave WAVE 3 News copies of the checks he wrote to Ashcraft for more than $1,700 in materials.

“He came in here, took my money, and didn’t do anything,” Shipp said.

Shipp said he tried calling over and over to get the job started. Then for a refund. But he said Ashcraft just gave him excuse after excuse, until he said Ashcraft threatened him.

“Well if I got to come to your house, it’s not going to be good for us, that’s kind of threatening to me,” Ashcraft said.

Pam Martin has a similar story. She hired Ashcraft to install a water heater.

“We wrote him a check for $700 to purchase the materials to do the hot water heater, and as of today, right now, we don’t have a hot water heater, can’t get a refund,” Martin said.

She said she called and called. Martin said she had a final heated conversation with Ashcraft, which he followed up with a text to her husband.

“He better put me on a leash, before I got hurt,” Martin said.

Dustin Meadows hired Ashcraft in 2019 for close to $6,000 to rough in some plumbing for a new bathroom. However, when his general contractor Jerry Semar from Alpha Construction came by to bury the work, Semar noticed something.

“The wrong fittings were used, it didn’t have any drop at all,” Semar said of the work.

He couldn’t bury any of it.

“The rough in was above the grade of the concrete, so if he would have filled it in, we would have had pipe sticking up and it would not have filled in,” Semar said.

His company ended up tearing it all out.

“I’ve seen a lot of bad plumbing jobs in my career, this was one of the worst, complete lack of experience, it looked like someone just decided to do plumbing one day,” Semar said.

Meadows said Ashcraft also damaged the main sewer line. He provided pictures showing it leaked and began filling his utility room with raw sewage.

He said Ashcraft refunded him $3,300, but Meadows sued him for the rest and the cost to do the job over again. The case was dismissed because Meadows couldn’t serve Ashcraft with the lawsuit.

“He gave me back some of my money, but he still owes me $2,700 dollars on top of what he screwed up.” Meadows said. “I’d say I’m closer to being out $10,000 dollars.”

We asked Ashcraft about his plumbing experience during our estimate.

“How long you been a plumber,” I asked.

“29 years,” Ashcraft said.

29 years ago was 1992. Between 1994 and 2012, WAVE 3 News found Ashcraft was repeatedly in and out of Kentucky’s prisons for theft, stolen property, and parole violations.

The Kentucky Department of Corrections said it had no records showing Ashcraft taking any plumbing courses and referred us to the state’s community and technical college system. KCTCS told us it had no record of Ashcraft ever being a student.

The Kentucky Division of Plumbing said it has no record of Ashcraft ever applying for a license. That office actually mailed him a cease and desist letter in mid-October by certified mail telling him to stop.

WAVE 3 News got a copy of the receipt showing someone took delivery at the house he was renting on October 20.

That brings us back to our garbage disposal appointment with Ashcraft. It was nearly two months after that cease and desist letter had been delivered.

“Robbie, I’m Mark Stevens with WAVE 3,” I said, following Ashcraft to his car. “We’ve got a copy of a cease and desist letter the state sent you, for plumbing, wanted to know why you’re still plumbing.”

Ashcraft unlocked the car, got in and started the engine.

“We also talked to a bunch of your customers, can we ask a couple questions, Robbie?” I continued to ask.

Ashcraft drove off without answering.

He sent me one final text.

“Shady s***, good try,” wrote Ashcraft.

Ashcraft faces up to five years in prison if found guilty of theft by deception in Eric Shipp’s case. A preliminary hearing has been set for later next month.

We’ve also asked the state what it’s doing about Ashcraft’s lack of a license. So far, there has been no response.

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