Woman Claims Convicted Fraudster Cost Her Home and $191,000

Mary 'Marie' Medina, 48, says she was scammed out of $191,000 by William 'Bill' Stoecker, who has been brought up on new fraud and theft charges on an unrelated case.

Mary "Marie" Medina was unsurprised when she found out William "Bill" Stoecker in connection to allegedly scamming a homeowner out of money that should have gone to repairs.

Medina, 48, says she, too, was a victim of Stoecker's scam—to the tune of $191,000 that she paid to his construction firm in 2006 and 2007 to remodel her Lockport home.

READ: Grabill Corp. Fraudster Back in Jail on New Charges

Stoecker, 54, appeared in a Bridgeview courtroom Wednesday, Nov. 14, for a brief hearing before Judge John J. Hynes. His business manager, Susan Olszak, 46, of Florida, also has been charged.

The case was continued because Hynes is currently in a jury trial. The pair is scheduled to appear back in court on Dec. 11.

Stoecker's current case doesn't involve Medina, though. It centers around Stoecker's alleged use of a client's credit card to pay his debts instead of buying supplies for the New Lenox homeowner he was working for, according to court records.

And Medina doesn't know if she will ever get to share her story in court.

Dream Home Remodeling Lead to 4-Year Nightmare

It has always been Medina's dream to open up the home that the single mom shared with her three children to foster children. And not just any children but siblings who would have enough to room to be able to stay together.

"Many times, children get split from their siblings," she said. "I wanted to be able to take them all."

In August of 2006, she figured it would be a start to build an addition to her Lockport home. After being in touch with several contractors, she had seen Stoecker's work on a home in the neighborhood and was charmed by the style.

Not long after, Medina contacted the project manager on that home and was introduced to Stoecker, whom she said was also a charmer. She was unaware of his past as a convicted bank fraudster.

"He was really all talk," she said. "Really laid on the cream."

By summer of 2007, Medina was in a contract with Atherton Industries, Stoecker's high-end, home-remodeling firm based in Tinley Park that does custom renovations, and work on the house was in full swing. Though she had initially negotiated a $150,000 price for the renovations, she says Stoecker persuaded her to take on an additional $229,000 contract.

In August of 2007, Medina returned from a family vacation in Mexico and was stunned by the sight of the home. Work was progressing, but it was very different from what she had in mind, she says. It was much bigger and more extravagant.

"You know, you look at the drawings, and it doesn't look anything like how it actually comes out," she said.

But the unexpected size of the house wouldn't be her only worry. In September of that year, one of the contractors told Medina he hadn't been paid.

"I said, '[Stoecker] should have been paying you," Medina said.

Medina—copies of canceled checks from a blue bin of paperwork related to the incident in tow—showed payments to Atherton from November 2006 to late September of 2007, six checks totaling just less than $191,000.

She said she also eventually learned that other contractors weren't paid. To top it off, Atherton employees were calling her asking for more money.

By Thanksgiving of 2007, the contractors had vacated the project, and Atherton had canceled Medina's contract, claiming nonpayment. Medina and her three children moved into a property she owns in Chicago.

Atherton: Medina Didn't Pay Up, Broke Contract

After communication was cut off completely with Atherton in early 2008, Medina filed complaints with anyone she could think of, including Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Sen. Dick Durbin. She contacted media outlets and even met with a reporter, to no avail.

"It was so frustrating," Medina said. "How can you put so much money into something that isn't done and nothing. Nobody cared."

Madigan's office did investigate the issue, eliciting a written response in June 2008 from Mark T. Hickey, Stoecker's attorney.

Hickey claimed Medina violated her contract by lack of payment and living in the house while it was under construction.

"Ms. Medina's breach of the contract and failure to pay the contractual amount has resulted in two [HVAC and plumbing] subcontractors not being paid," Hickey wrote. "Ms. Medina has assured [Stoecker] that she had funds readily available in a bank account to pay the contracted amount, yet it appears that she misled my client, in that, she never had the funds in which to complete the project at the time the contract was signed.

"I find it interesting that Ms. Medina would file a Complaint with your offices when she has admittedly not complied with the terms of the contract with my client," Hickey continued.

However, Medina said she had the money but stopped paying after she realized what was going on. She says the memo line of her checks have the notes she made, showing a copy of a $13,083.75 check labeled "septic."

"Every one of my checks was made out to Atherton," she said. "They had no problem cashing them. They told me how much money they needed and when they needed me to pay it.

"I was supposed to be paying them all that money and paying the contractors myself?" Medina asked, incredulously. She said Atherton employees never asked her if contractors were getting paid by her personally.

She also says that initially, she and her children were staying at a hotel, but later she asked Stoecker if they could live in the part of the home that wasn't being renovated.

"He said, 'Sure, we'll work around you'," Medina said.

Ultimately, Madigan's office closed the file on Medina's case in October of 2008, noting that attempts at "informal" mediation had failed to resolve the issue. In a letter to Medina, a citizen's protection advocate wrote: "Since formal enforcement action by this office is not warranted, we are closing your file at this time," and suggested Medina retain a private attorney or go to small claims court if she wanted to pursue the matter further.

But Medina says attorneys she has spoken with have suggested pursuing the matter in civil court wouldn't be worth it. She says they have suggested she just forget about the matter.

Contractors, Atherton Put Liens on the House

Forgetting about the matter, however, was easier said than done. While Medina had been corresponding with Madigan's office, she also had been trying to contact the bank, because in April of 2008, the first of several liens had been placed on the home by contractors.

Eventually, the plumbers put a lien on the house, as well as the construction firm that installed the furnace, Medina said.

"And I thought, 'How can all these people not have been paid?' "

In all, there were about $55,000 in liens on the house, including a $33,000 lien from Atherton.

"I was a single mom raising three kids," Medina said. "What do I do?"

To add insult to injury, the house still wasn't finished. So Medina and her children actually lived in the house during the warm weather months and rented homes elsewhere when it got too cold to stay, she said. She was leery of staying in her Chicago property because it meant the unit wouldn't provide rental income, she said.

"That was our home, it was where we wanted to be," Medina said. "It was our decision to be there."

The precarious situation dragged on until 2010, when the house went up for sheriff's sale. On Nov. 1 of that year—nearly three years to the day that Atherton canceled Medina's contract—she moved out of the home with her family for good.

"I had to file bankruptcy," she said. "My family wasn't rich, but we always had money. This wiped me out completely … just to lose it all because somebody can be so greedy."

Medina and her children moved back to their property in the city, living in a five-flat that she still owns. Still recovering financially, Medina said it's even more frustrating that she has nothing to show for the entire situation.

"We've moved eight times in the four years," Medina said. "I tell everybody our story."

She said she never called the police about the issue because she didn't believe it was a criminal matter. But as she observes Stoecker's current case in court, she hasn't ruled out talking to prosecutors.

As for her dream house to house foster children, though the house in Lockport is gone, the dream isn't.

"I hope to still do it," Medina said. "It's still in my plans."

NANCY GRACE November 15, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Lock him up.
tmarc75 November 15, 2012 at 03:00 PM
voklst November 15, 2012 at 04:35 PM
It is and was a Criminal case. Fraud... Was anything at all IN WRITING????? Was there a separate contract for each and every contractor? Was Atherton writing in the memo fields of the checks? Or was she? My family has been screwed on mini changes: new fireplace, replacing a tile floor, new toilet, kitchen remodel.... Adding an addition....go buy a Ready-Made Bigger house... Even those little jobs... Got us cement plugged sinks....debris dumped on lot...unfinished & ungrouted Fixes. there is not enough trust in the world for me to hire a contractor for any major job.... I cant use the headache or the house liens... She either doesnt watch HGTV And has no idea who Mike Holmes & Josh are. You're suppose to learn from others Mistakes. If she were to hire a good lawyer.... Atherton would have to rip off 3 more People to pay her back. Is it possible for her to re-coop anything? Especially if Lisa Madigans office dropped the ball?
Patch reader November 15, 2012 at 06:25 PM
If Stoeker was an employee for Atherton - they needed to make it right. It's too late now but everyone should beware of this company.
OLY November 15, 2012 at 07:33 PM
This guy was bad news years ago with his company Grabil, located in Oak Forest. Defrauded banks and vendors for millions! Ya think he would of learned something sitting in prison then?
keith November 15, 2012 at 07:43 PM
That guy has and always been an crook.Lisa Madigans office also did noting for me on a case were I paid 20,000 to a cabinet company that never made anything.Note ask where they purchase materials at and check for any liens they may have against them.
Titan Dad November 15, 2012 at 09:55 PM
isnt this the same jerk off that headed that grabill corporation in oak forest in the eighties that was a big fraud ?
Monica McGrath November 15, 2012 at 10:14 PM
This is a terrible thing that happened th the Medina Family, hopefully someday something good will happen for her, maybe a T.V show will see this or someone who can actually help.
Emmy November 15, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Atherton was Stoecker's company - there is no one to complain to. There are dozens and dozens of people with the same story. Suing him has proven worthless - thousands of dollars in attorneys fees, but he has dissolved the company and says he has no assets. Judgements have been awarded but no one has been able to collect.
OLY November 15, 2012 at 10:26 PM
ABSOLUTELY!!!! The same...............
Bill Stoecker November 15, 2012 at 10:27 PM
It's easy to second guess someone in her position, tell her what she SHOULD have done, and tell yourself you'd never fall for it. There is a reason why this guy spent so many years in federal prison for ripping off millions from Wall Street bankers, why he was ABLE to do it, and why he changed his target victims once he got out. He went after people who could afford a house... ONCE, but who couldn't afford to fight him after he ripped them off. The real problem is the Illinois Mechanics' Lien law. It protects everyone EXCEPT the home-owner. Stoecker worked the loop-holes in the law and got away with it.
RoslynShaw November 15, 2012 at 11:26 PM
Im sorry to hear your story, Mary. My family is also a victim of Stoecker's fraud. After building a house with him, he left us with nearly $60K in liens. For nearly three years we have fought and fought with the court system and have gotten nowhere except more in debt from attorney fees. The courts side with the subcontractor liens unfortunately, leaving the homeowner to pay everything including everyone's attorney fees. The Tinley Park police, Village of Tinley Park and Madigan's office did absolutely nothing for us. Our situation has only gotten worse. I pray for peace in your family.
RoslynShaw November 15, 2012 at 11:27 PM
Well Said!
voklst November 16, 2012 at 12:42 AM
When is Illinois & USA... Going to get Our own Mike Holmes ti fight these Lien laws? Maybe we need legislature to have new laws that put the home owner The persons paying for services....rights first... My other question? What does the Lisa Madigan office actually do? Maybe that office needs to be reorganized eliminated or All Shook Up!!!
Eric Blair November 16, 2012 at 01:43 PM
This woman is a dingbat/airhead. She allowed herself to be ripped off due to her own stupidity. No sympathy here.
Patch reader November 16, 2012 at 05:58 PM
Are you related to the Bill Stoecker in the story? Just curious?
Rick Drew November 21, 2012 at 10:38 PM
One day he'll screw the wrong person.
Jake Daugherty December 11, 2012 at 08:27 PM
The damage Stoaecker has done to countless working families is unimaginable. Just walk around Tinley Park, where he lives, and ask around. He's as evil as they come and one day he'll get what he deserves.
D. Blake January 03, 2013 at 10:35 PM
I wouldn't pass judgement, if you haven't worked with him. You sign contracts and he always has an out some way or another if there is a problem. Don't call others names unless you can back up your claims.
D. Blake January 03, 2013 at 10:36 PM
We used Atherton on our home rebuild and luckily we came out not "too" bad. We closed on our home June 2009 & moved in July 2009. We tried to refinance our loan in Spring 2010 at which time we were informed that we couldn't because we had a lien on our property from the framing company on our project, which we never received a notice on until after the fact. We had to hire an attorney to fight this stupidity which costed us $8,000. Our claim was "How could we have closed on our home in summer 2009 if there was a lien on our property?". The closing company should have also been named in our suit but never were. I'm sure it's another of Atherton's buddies that let it go through. Don't get me wrong, we love our home which, is not that big as some & what we expected but Atherton had issues all along, i.e. never reading our City Building Code that clearly stated new construction required sprinkler systems & seperate water line for such, which was a huge hit to our budget as we were never informed of such requirements. I agree with the once a crook always a crook, & unless you dealt with Bill Stoecker yourself, you don't know how he could talk & explain things. He gave us a fake name when we first met him & when rumors started about him & Atherton, he admitted to us, he didn't tell us his real name in the beginning because he was afraid we would look him up & find out about his past. My husband & I have now decided to chalk it up to experience but, we would never build again!


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