Plumber problem: Milwaukee woman left with horrific situation

A Milwaukee woman hired a plumber for a big project but said he drained her funds instead.

Contact 6 is familiar with the man she hired, whom she said left her with a medieval plumbing system.

Just when Contact 6 was starting to think they’d see it all, Patricia Ferrell turned on her shower. The water went straight down her drain, through the floor and into the dirt beneath her manufactured home. Ferrell said it’s been that way for more than two years, back when she found Alan Barr in the yellow pages.

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"He just took advantage of me," said Ferrell. "He made me believe that I could trust him."

Ferrell said she called Barr of All Plumbing Sewer and Drain Restoration in February 2021 after her pipes froze, clogged and flooded her bathroom. She said Barr fixed the pipes, so she hired him to do more work.

Unfinished plumbing work at Patricia Ferrell's home

"He got (the frozen pipes) unplugged right away. That gave me a lot of confidence that he knew what he was doing," said Ferrell.

Ferrell received $18,675 from her insurance provider for repairs and gave it to Barr.

"He said that the floors had to be replaced, and the shower had to be replaced," said Ferrell. "Everything had to be replaced, and he was gonna take care of it."

Ferrell said Barr did some demolition work. She said he tore out the vanity in her bathroom, put a fist through her shower drain and pulled out insulation beneath her trailer. Ferrell said Barr brought a replacement vanity, but it was too large.

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Soon after, Ferrell said Barr stopped showing up.

"He didn’t want anything to do with me anymore," said Ferrell.

Ferrell said she asked Barr to come back. She asked about her money.

"He told me that the IRS stole it," said Ferrell.

Alan Barr (2016)

Barr is a familiar face to Contact 6. Seven years ago, Barr spoke with then-Contact 6 reporter Katrina Cravy about $600 he’d taken for work that he hadn’t started. Shortly after speaking with Cravy, Barr handed over the money.

Finding Barr in 2023 isn’t so easy. It appears his business closed. Contact 6 tried calling and texting Barr without success. We visited his old addresses but were told he’d moved on.

In one phone conversation, Ferrell said Barr told her he was in Florida.

Karen Bauer leads the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee’s new consumer protection division. She said consumers should take a few important steps before hiring a contractor.

Unfinished plumbing work at Patricia Ferrell's home

"The most easy thing you can do is Google who you’re about to make a contract with," said Bauer.

Bauer says before paying any money, check the Wisconsin Circuit Court website for any lawsuits or financial issues involving the contractor. Consumers can also ask the Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection whether a contractor has any complaints.

"The hour you spent doing a little bit of legwork at the beginning could save you $10-, $20-, $30,000 in heartache," said Bauer.

Ferrell said she plans to finally file a report with police.

Unfinished plumbing work at Patricia Ferrell's home

"I’m just stuck in this place, and this man has taken from me so much," said Ferrell. "I cry a lot. I cry over it."

Consumers can also check whether a plumber is licensed. It appears Barr is not.

The Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) is in the process of moving trades applications to its new platform. DSPS hopes to finish the process by year-end.

For now, consumers can check for licenses on the DSPS website – searching by license number or an advanced search using the license type and last name. Consumers can also email DSPS to request information.