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Soldier and breast cancer survivor say Quad City furniture maker “messed with the wrong people”

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A Davenport furniture maker is coming under fire, after customers, including a soldier and breast cancer survivor, say they were ripped off.

At least a dozen customers say they never received hand-crafted furniture from Tyler Smith, after paying deposits of $100 to $800. Many have shared their frustrations on Facebook, and with WQAD-TV.

"When I found out there were 14 or 15 of us, I had to have a spread sheet of the other people reaching out to me," said Catherine Colley, a physician assistant at Unity Point hospital who also serves in the Iowa National Guard.

Colley says she found Smith's slick website touting custom furniture 11 months ago, and paid a $450 deposit for a dresser he was supposed to make.

"He wanted $350 upfront and he kind of gave me this story that, kinda like it wasn't going to quite cover the materials. So, I said how about $450? I don't want you to be out of money, I want to cover the materials", she recalled.

She says after nearly one year, she has never received the dresser, just excuses.

"He hurt his back, his daughter had pink eye", she said.

Breast cancer survivor Shelley Hanson gave Smith $100 to start a custom cabinet last October, as a Christmas gift for her grandson to showcase his rock collection.

It never happened.

"At the time, I was going back and forth to Mayo, I'd been dealing with breast cancer. So, at the last minute I had to go shopping because I didn't have the present. He did tell me at Christmas time, that I should just tell my grandson, that it's about family, not about presents", Hanson said.

Catherine the soldier and Shelley the cancer survivor have forged a friendship and made it their mission to try and hold Smith accountable.

"He messed with the wrong people," Hanson said.

The two contacted 8 On Your Side, and tracked Smith's workshop to a one car garage in Davenport. There appeared to be a table saw and an unfinished bench inside. Someone at the home said Smith had moved out a couple of days prior to our visit.

In a phone interview with News 8, Smith says he used the deposits to buy materials to make the furniture, but "got behind " on his work.

He says his customers were the ones who "abandoned" the projects when he fell behind, and blamed Catherine and Shelley for the demise of his business, because of their public complaints on Facebook.

"I very deeply care about that, but nobody seemed to understand that I took on too much and I got defamed," Smith said.

"I have never intentionally ripped people off, you don't seem to care about that," he said.

Smith says he had good intentions, but it was one thing after another.

"For instance, the one person, their project fell off the truck," he said.

"You go ahead, and make sure you don't make any mistakes (with the story), because otherwise, I'll be taking you to court for lying," Smith warned.

Meanwhile, Smith was the one taken to court last month. Colley and Hanson had to hire an attorney and sued Smith, who was ordered by a judge to pay them back. He has not.

The two say at this point, it's not about the money.

"There's a lot of good people out there and they don't know what to do. They gave Smith $500, $600, and they don't have the money to go to a lawyer. It's unbelievable what this guy has gotten away with, " said Hanson, who has now spent way more than the $100 Smith owed her on legal fees and court fees.

The pair say they were frustrated after contacting  Moline police, and were told they wouldn't help because  it is a civil matter, rather than a criminal case.

"I do not understand why this is not a criminal matter, when we have all the proof we do. They basically said, they couldn't do anything, they're not bill collectors," Hanson said.

Smith's website was still up and running, but he says he has stopped taking orders.

Colley and Hanson say they will have to pay another $60 to have Smith served again for failure to pay. But, they say, it's a matter of principle.

Meanwhile, Colley remains out $450 plus legal fees, and will have to take care of business from halfway across the world. She is deploying on Friday.

"The fact that he would rip off someone who who has like, devoted their life to the good of other people. I'm in medicine, a soldier, I'm going on another deployment. And this guys, gonna come and take money from me?, Colley said.