(*Editor's Note as of July 3, 2014: Castle Rock Remodeling has undergone a change in management since the airing of this story.)
ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - You may have seen the billboards, read ads in the paper, or heard radio commercials. Castle Rock Remodeling is paying for an aggressive push to win your window business.
But there's something about the company you won't see in those ads, and it's something 5 on Your Side's Mike Rush has been investigating. We're talking about serious accusations by former insiders, whistle-blowers spelling out a scam they say could affect hundreds of people throughout the St. Louis metro area, and you might be one and not even know it.
Undercover video 5 on Your Side obtained shows a man appearing to trim a portion of a window by running it across a table saw. Is it honest work in the Castle Rock Remodeling warehouse, or fraud?
5 on Your Side sources say the video represents a widespread scam orchestrated by Castle Rock's owner, Jamie Hart.
"I don't think a window should be that loose," said 82-year-old Pete De Los Santos as he shook one of his windows from inside his St. Ann home. De Los Santos bought 17 windows from Castle Rock. He says they're ill-fitting, drafty and rattle. One day he got a call out of the blue.
"He says they didn't install the windows that you paid for, he says, they gave you a cheaper window," recalled De Los Santos.
John Miller says he was the one who called De Los Santos. Miller was Castle Rock's warehouse manager. Jennifer Gill is the former general manager. She says the owner, Jamie Hart, hatched a plan a couple of years ago.
Gill: "He was losing money and needed money. He figured out a way to do it."
Rush: "Buy cheaper windows, pass them off as a more expensive window?"
Hart fired both Gill and Miller, they say unjustly, but their claim is backed up by former Castle Rock employees who left on their own and by customer contracts 5 on Your Side obtained. The contracts show repeatedly customers paid for an "Excalibur" model window, but packing slips prove they got cheaper windows.
Miller says it was his job to make wrong windows fit, which brings us back to the hidden camera video.
Miller believes the man in it is doing what Miller used to do, cutting off nail flanges. Sometimes John says he went as far as trimming part of the window frames.
"The window would be flimsy on the sides," said John.
Gill and Miller say there was even a code. The "CD" written on the packing slips, according to the former employees, stands for "cut down."
Rush: "How many would you do in a day?"
Miller: Um, sometimes I could do, probably 50 to 60."
Lisa Hutton wouldn't be surprised if she's got the wrong windows.
"Oh my goodness, we just noticed tons of problems," said Hutton.
She says her windows are a bad fit and believes they're excessively caulked to cover up gaps.
"I am just flabbergasted. I was totally misled," said Hutton.
Hutton and De Los Santos are two of about 30 customers who've complained to the Better Business Bureau.
"In many instances they said that windows did not properly fit, in some cases the windows would not even lock," said St. Louis BBB President Michelle Corey.
Rush confronted Jamie Hart twice with his findings.
Hart: "You're overplaying this."
Rush: "These people ordered a certain window and you gave them a different window. Why would you do that without telling them about it?"
Hart: "Obviously, we made a mistake."
If so, arguably a fair number of them, but despite the claims, Hart denies any deceit.
"I've done nothing whatsoever to fool any customer," Hart claimed.
Customers Mike Rush contacted from the contracts were not aware they had the wrong windows. Some say they've had problems, others like Larry Condra are happy with theirs. But Condra is not happy about the possibility he's been cheated.
"Just a bum deal," said Condra. "Another incident of somebody trying to make a buck at the expense of somebody else."
And Gill believes there are a lot of somebody elses.
"I think two to 300 customers over the two years. And there're thousands of windows," said Gill.
Pete De Los Santos' case ended in arbitration with the Better Business Bureau.
Meanwhile, A lawyer representing Al-Side, the company that makes the windows, claims the quality of all of the windows we talked about is about the same. Other people we spoke to in the window business say the different windows are of inferior quality to those customers paid for.
They're also cheaper. Al-side confirms Castle Rock can save around 20 dollars per window by making that change.
The day this story was originally scheduled to air, we learned Castle Rock owner Jamie Hart, was found dead in his home. His death is under investigation.
Castle Rock is open for business.
If you are a Castle Rock customer and want to know if you've got the right windows, you can contact AlSide, based in Ohio.
You can call Alside at 1-800-489-1144 or 1-800-922-6009.
If you find out you do have the wrong windows, Mike Rush would like to hear from you. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.