TUMALO, Ore. - Katie Thraen thought she'd found a trustworthy contractor, John McClean, to build her family's new home in Tumalo in 2014. But before the framing was even completed, she and her husband had lost $80,000, and McClean is now behind bars, accused of racketeering and aggravated theft involving several alleged victims.
"We were devastated financially and emotionally," Thraen said Wednesday "I mean, it's bad enough to just have someone steal money from you. But when it's for your home -- you save everything you possibly can, and you max out whatever you need to do to build your dream home."
Thraen had hired McClean through a family friend, but did not know he had his state contracting license suspended in 2010.
McClean's work also caught the eye of others in the industry, who Thraen said told her his work did not follow industry guidelines.
One of the walls he started was not up to building codes, Thraen said, and an inspector told her the wall could have fallen once the house was completed. Thraen said she had to tear it down and eventually had the house finished by another contractor.
Shortly after construction started, a subcontractor's wife came up to Thraen and asked for money Thraen had given to McClean to pay the subcontractor. McClean made an excuse she thought sounded reasonable, but things like that started happening more often.
Then, a local building supply company served a lien against the property -- she owed the company over $30,000 she had already given to McClean with the expectation he'd give it to the company.
"Then I did start to panic, and my husband and I had to come up with another $30,000 that we had already given John," she said.
Thraen then fired McClean, but not before the family was $80,000 in the hole.
She was able to track down other clients who had similar complaints. Two of them filed civil lawsuits but were not able to recover much money, especially after legal fees, Thraen said. One was suffering from ovarian cancer and spent her last six months fighting to recover her money.
"At the end, she and John -- the gloves were off," Thraen said. "It was no more, 'John, what's going on here?' It was, 'John, you stole from me. How can you do this?' And she said he would just shrug and smile."
Thraen and her husband decided to pursue a criminal case against McClean, which led to last week's grand jury indictment on a charge of racketeering (fraudulent business dealings) and four counts of first-degree aggravated theft involving several alleged victims between 2012 and 2014.
"We have been working on this nonstop for three years, and it's been so emotionally draining," she said. "Devastating. There have been so many tears over the years."
Because they liquidated almost everything, Thraen said they even had nights with nothing but ramen to eat.
She hopes the case will prevent future victims.
Court documents confirmed McClean was working for his brother, who did have a license. We reached out to the brother today, but he declined to comment.
McClean is due for a plea hearing Aug. 8 and is currently being held on $250,000 bail.