Settlement Check Called Slap In The Face

Tom Luppen carries what is left of his heating and air business in the back of his SUV.

Luppen said, “Every person’s dream is to start a business. This is what I got left.”

Luppen once owned Value Heating and Air, with eight employees and growing. But Benchmark Homes was his primary customer and the builder’s suicide, then company bankruptcy contributed to the failure of Luppen's small business.

Luppen installed the heating and air systems in three Benchmark homes four years ago at a cost to him of over $17,000. In the past few months he’s received settlement checks from the Bankruptcy Trustee for Benchmark totaling $650. That includes a $99 check for a $5,000 lien he placed on one home.

Luppen said, “I was hoping for half. This is a slap in the face, a kick in the butt.”

The Bankruptcy Trustee said up to 200 subcontractors like Tom have received settlement checks. All could get a little more money after all the debts are paid.

Since Benchmark’s bankruptcy about $4.5 million has been paid out for claims from subs as well as various other vendors and fees.

The Trustee said about 400 claims remain for the $1.4 million left in the Trustee account after sales of Benchmark assets.

The Trustee hopes the Benchmark bankruptcy case will come to an end by the end of the year.

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