DIGGING DEEPER: Customers allege fraud after paying thousands to Peoria cabinetry company

Published: Aug. 17, 2022 at 10:43 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25 News Now) - A reputable Peoria business for years is now accused of leaving clients high and dry.

Several lawsuits allege Peoria’s Murray Custom Cabinetry defrauded customers out of thousands of dollars as the business doors are now shut.

It all took a turn for the worse when the pandemic hit. Murray Custom Cabinetry owner Thomas Murray had signed contracts from clients who paid their deposits, but now more than a half dozen people claim he hasn’t held up his end of the deal.

On his own since about 2015, Thomas Murray comes from a family of craftsmen, but since early this summer he’s been facing a series of very similar allegations.

“I just feel really bamboozled. We did a lot of research. He had good reviews prior to this, I don’t know if we snuck in right as the House of Cards was collapsing,” said Greg Crowe who said he paid Murray a $15,000 deposit and never received his cabinets.

Crowe moved back to Peoria to restore a historic home on Moss Avenue. He looked specifically for a contractor in custom cabinetry in December of 2021. That’s when he says his nightmare began with Murray Custom Cabinetry.

“My first reaction was shock, devastating. It’s a lot of time, it’s a lot planning, it’s a lot of money, it’s a lot of faith.” said Crowe.

Records show he paid a $15,000 deposit to the company.

“It’s frustrating. The kitchen was supposed to be done now,” said Crowe.

After months of silence, Crowe went to the source, the cabinet vendor itself, and was told there was no record of his order.

“They had no record of our job at all, had never received our down payment.”

Crowe said he hounded Murray for an explanation, went to police and talked to lawyers.

“He said he was going to refund us for the job once he sold his house, that (he) had been hurting through the pandemic and just a litany of excuses,” Crowe said

Crowe wasn’t the only one who heard that excuse.

“He’s selling a home so he can pay people back, and he was supposed to pick up my cabinets on the 18th, but he had to liquidate some assets before he could go get them. It was just such a mess,” said customer Melissa Millinger.

Millinger has receipts of $6,500 paid upfront for her cabinets in May, hearing nothing from Murray with delivery expected in June. She contacted the vendor and heard a familiar story, no record of order.

“At that point is when I showed up at the storefront and called and the phone number was disconnected,” Millinger continued, “The business owner next door came out and said, ‘I guarantee you’re not going to get your cabinets delivered, there’s been a handful of people this week.’”

Millinger realized she wasn’t alone and went to social media. Finally, the company got her the cabinets through a different manufacturer at the end of July.

The Better Business Bureau revoked Murray Custom Cabinetry’s accreditation in July, but the sticker in its window was just removed a day ago. The BBB says between May and August of this year, it received nine complaints against the company and no response from the owner.

“He continued to accept orders after he failed to produce multiple orders,” said Millinger.

There are four active lawsuits in Peoria County filed against the cabinet company. Another lawsuit was already settled in which Murray was ordered to pay almost $4,500.

Each suit alleged Murray never placed an order with the vendors, but did take their money.

Millinger got her cabinets, but they’re still in her living room. She just wants the word out.

“I closed on my home May 31. My boys started school August 3. I still don’t live here,” said Millinger.

Peoria Police say they are investigating, but won’t comment about ongoing investigations.

Crowe is hoping Murray will just simply give his money back.

“But at the same time, we’ve been lied to and we’ve been given the run-around and we’ve been ignored for 9 months so I’m not very confident that we’re going to get our money,” said Crowe.

By email, Thomas Murray says he’s being accused of quite a few things that he has not done. He says a shop fire over the winter hurt business, along with the pandemic. He says he is dedicated to repairing things for his clients the best he can.

Online records show his house is listed for sale. Murray was issued a court summons for early September in Peoria County.

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