A Reno businessman accused in a lawsuit and by former employees of defrauding churches and individuals in a plan to build homes in the U.S. and ship them to Haitian earthquake victims has canceled a house-building event planned for next Saturday.
Mike Stickler said Monday that he has sent refunds to everyone who registered on his Web site for the Help Build Hope Haiti project. But Reno churches that gave between $12,500 to $23,000 to sponsor the event said they have not been reimbursed.
Stickler declined to say how many people had signed on, but said it was fewer than the 200 that would be needed “to make a viable build.” Those who made financial sponsorships, he said, would be refunded according to their contracts.
Stickler’s decision follows a Reno Gazette-Journal investigation published in April that found that a year after he began gathering funds for his Haiti home-building group, most of the money was gone and many of the lead workers and churches quit the project claiming Stickler misused the funds.
Despite the controversy, Stickler said on May 6 that he planned to go forward with the build event in Reno, but on Sunday, he sent an email saying it wasn’t going to happen.
He said his group would continue with the project “and the future city-builds over the next five years.”
“Our goal to build 5,000 homes for those in dire need continues,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Reno Police Department is investigating bounced-check claims against Stickler, and the Nevada Secretary of State’s office is working with the Attorney General’s office on a probe into Stickler’s business practices.
Two Texas groups that had put up $23,000 each for the project have filed a lawsuit against Stickler claiming he made false claims to secure the funds and a Kentucky group sued Stickler claiming he did not have permission to use the Help Build Hope trademarked name.
Stickler has denied the claims.
Joe Taylor, pastor of South Reno Baptist, said Monday that his church’s parent group, Sierra Baptist Association, was a $12,500 sponsor of the Haiti project, but as of Monday, they had not received notification that the Reno build event had been canceled and had not received a refund.
Paul Holland, pastor of the Cornerstone Foursquare Church in Sparks gave $23,000 for the building plan, and said Monday that he had not heard about the cancelation or a refund.
He said he planned to check his contract to see if they how they can secure a reimbursement since the build is not being held.
Several Catholic schools, including Bishop Manogue Catholic High School and St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Community had planned to participate by recruiting builders for the event, but pulled out after the Reno Gazette-Journal story ran, according to Brother Matthew Cunningham, spokesman for the Reno Diocese.