(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) An Agency man pleaded not guilty to felony theft charges in Buchanan County Court on Monday even as some of his alleged victims held signs showing how much they say he stole from them.
27-year-old Ryan Southard is accused of promising to do contract work, taking money, then not completing the job. The felony charge states that Southard has already been convicted three times of the same offense in the last ten years.
A Clarksdale man wished he had known Southard's history before hiring him to build a new fence at his home. He paid him more than $4,000 up front to complete the work.
"He put the posts in and three guys two weeks later they put up a few other posts and we haven't seen anybody since," said Donnie Moss. "It makes my wife cry and it makes me angry."
Larry and Lea Rice also hired Southard to do some work. They had asked him to complete some landscaping in their backyard and had paid $700 in advance.
After Southard backed out on them, Lea began a Facebook chat group to see if there were others who had been getting the runaround from the contractor. They were surprised at the response.
"We've had countless people get on Facebook and say, 'Yeah, he did the same thing to me,'" Larry Rice said. "He was supposed to do a roofing job, a landscaping job or even supposed to come mow the grass and he never does show up. He's taken from the young and naive, the middle class working man and the elderly on a fixed income."
Rice estimates that Southard has stolen anywhere from $20,000 - 30,000 for work he's never finished.
"If there's justice, yeah, I'll get my money back," Rice said. "At the same time I would rather see him get what's coming to him as far as a jail term just to see him stopped."
Southard is facing a felony charge because of the three previous convictions of theft by deception within the past ten years.
Moss says both the Andrew and DeKalb County Prosecutors' offices are also interested in talking to Southard about some other cases they're working on.