Clients say their forain toit dreams are shattered by the San Antonio trafic.

SAN ANTONIO – →Read the Defenders investigation here. Watch the full version today on KSAT 12 at 22:00.

Selling a home to live in an old school bus may seem odd, but it’s a growing trend as couples and families seek more freedom while living on the road.

Enthusiasts call it “schoolboy life” and turning those old buses into motorhomes is becoming big business.

But over the past five months, KSAT Defenders has found a slew of customers who say they were scammed after they hired a local bus conversion company. They claimed to have been cheated emotionally and financially.

Lone Star school transformations

Jim and Trudy Krupoki said they hired Lone Star Skoolie Conversions to turn an old school bus they bought into a house on the road.

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For Jim, it seemed like time was running fast. He survived a bout of colon cancer and also dealt with stage 3 liver disease.

He and Trudy wanted to spend the rest of their time together, traveling around the country, visiting friends and family. They planned to sell their Northern California home to finance their dream.

“He is going to have a liver transplant. And, you know, we were looking for ways to make our lives easier and easier, ”said Trudy Krupotsky. “And we thought getting out of the mortgage would be easier with that.” The couple found the San Antonio company on social media and were impressed with a video of owner Benjamin Potts promoting his business. After several conversations, they decided to trust him.

“(Ben) told us he was an engineer. He told us he was an expert,” Trudy Krupotsky said. “He (said he) would do everything so quickly that we would be on the road making memories, like immediately, you know, six to eight weeks.” The Krupotskys agreed to pay Potts $100,000 for the build, giving him $75,000 upfront to start the project the previous year. Soon after, they say that their lives took a detour that led to their financial ruin.

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“It’s really frustrating. You think you’re doing everything right, and then something like this happens,” said Jim Krupoki. “It completely changed the trajectory of what we’ve been building for ourselves for years.” When the couple arrived in San Antonio in August to pick up their new home, they were in for a nasty surprise. The bus was not ready. They lived in hotels as the weeks dragged on for months.

“It was like an endless toxic relationship,” Trudy said. “It was almost like capturing our bus and he already had our money.” The couple said they were told at least four times that the bus was ready, but when they arrived to make the final payment, it became clear that the bus wasn’t even close to being ready.

Fed up with all the delays and worker mistakes they witnessed, they agreed to pay Potts just to get the bus back into their own hands by signing a paperwork accepting the bus “as is”.

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“We knew it was a mess even though Ben stood right in front of us and said our bus cost $100,000,” Trudy recalls. “There’s no way it could even be worth $10,000.”

“Poor quality work”

The bus was full of defects. The joinery and painting was sloppy and the toilet was not installed properly.

“You could clean the floor. The adhesiveness of the flooring is equivalent to a Post-It Note sticker,” said Jim. “Literally a child could pull it out. It’s not quality work.” The problems only got worse when they asked a school expert to inspect the bus. Ross Taylor discovered the danger of electric shock, some of them potentially deadly.

“Evidently not even a trained or novice electrician did this,” Taylor said. “Things are done here that a novice freshman electrician wouldn’t do.” Taylor said he was amazed when he saw that the generator was connected to the bus’s electrical system. It had what he called a “suicide cable”.

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“It’s called a widow-making cable, or a death thread, because you have high-voltage electricity on the pins,” Taylor said. “You cannot buy them because they are not safe. I mean they are very dangerous.

Ross Taylor shows off the “suicide cable” he found on the Lone Star Skoolie Conversion bus. (KSAT)

Advocates have identified more than 20 clients who said they didn’t get what they paid for. During a group video call in March, customers said their buses were full of cosmetic defects and had the same electrical hazards as Krupotsky’s bus.

Austin photographers Zach and Taryn Marks hired Lone Star Skoolie to add two air conditioners and extra storage to their bus, which the previous owner had converted into a motorhome.

“We were told that there would be a complete storage system under installation and two functional air conditioners. One week. Done, said Zach Marks. “We got there and nothing was done. Our bus was not moved.”

When this weekly job dragged on for 3 weeks, the couple got fed up and stopped their bus before it was finished. But not before they said that Ben Potts offered to “fix things” by adding more solar arrays with additional materials he had in stock.

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Marx showed us the finished work.

“All different wires, different ages, not the gauge that should be for the chain running through them,” Marks said.

According to Marks, the air conditioners don’t work and the storage room they paid for was too small to store anything but small items. The couple said they lost $15,000 and would need to spend even more to fix the damage done by Lone Star Skoolie.

“We wanted to make sure everything was done right without concern for the safety of our family,” Marks said. “And the saddest thing is electric, it’s a death trap.” Potts invited the Defenders to his warehouse to see how his business was doing.

He blamed most of the problems on a former contractor.

“I started ordering a couple of builds because we got really busy,” Potts said. “And we noticed that everyone he touched was upset.”

He said he had no idea his customers were delivering buses with so many problems until he saw a video online.

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“I immediately had a heart attack because I don’t want to do it,” Potts said. “That’s when I knew, and I can start to see it, and I could see that pattern.”

The defenders approached this contractor for a response, who said they only provided the company with workers and that any subsequent work was done at the behest of Lone Star Skoolie Conversions.

Potts also accused clients of organizing against him.

“They destroyed my company,” Potts said. “They did everything to separate me and this company, although we had no bad intentions.” Eventually, Potts took some responsibility, admitting that he takes on more clients than he can handle, resulting in substandard work.

However, Potts took it upon himself to fix the buses or refund customers in full.

“We are ready to investigate the problem of each individual client. And we’re going to be investigating every one of those customers that has complaints,” Potts said.

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Some former clients have said that their experience with getting refunds from Potts was different.

Potts sued

Air Force veteran Lauryn Dougherty said her experience with Lone Star Skoolie was an ongoing nightmare.

“My bus was delivered in mid-December and it’s now May,” Dougherty said. “And it was back and forth. “Oh, we’re going to fix this, or we’re going to do this, or we’ve contacted this person to fix it.”

According to her, her bus was delivered with a broken windshield. She also said that the driver hired to deliver it had a stack of tickets he had collected while driving the bus from Texas to Arizona.

The bus was worse. The floor was rotten and covered with mold and rust.

When she checked the headline, she was in for a nasty surprise—the bus had previously been flooded, which she said Potts had never told her about.

Lauryn Dougherty was surprised to find that the bus she bought from Lone Star Skoolie Conversions was badly damaged by flooding. (KSAT)

Worse, Dougherty claims she was later contacted by another Lone Star Skoolie customer who believed Dougherty had the same bus, which she had also already paid Potts for.

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“We determined it was (the same bus) based on the VIN,” Daugherty said. “So he sold them the bus and they were waiting for a complete rebuild.”

Dougherty claimed that Potts mishandled the title.

“It was never translated into his name,” she said. “That’s why I have to get a fixed title.” Potts said the deal was a big mistake. According to him, he did not know that the bus was flooded.

“(The title) was not awarded to me personally, but to (my) employees,” Potts said. “If we had known about it, we would absolutely never have allowed something like this to happen.”

Potts did not elaborate on the other couple, who told Dougherty that they bought the same bus from Potts, but said that he is currently giving them back the money.

After spending several months waiting for Potts to fix her bus, Dougherty flew to San Antonio and filed a lawsuit in small claims court on May 6.

“If I can do anything about it to make sure no one else gets hurt, then whether or not I get my money back is negligible on a larger scale,” Dougherty said.

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She was joined by Joe Baker, an Army veteran who is also suing Potts. According to his lawsuit, the company took $15,000 from him but did not perform any repairs on his veteran bus. He has a short date on June 7th.

“He takes money from people and doesn’t provide a service, or he just blatantly rips people off,” Baker said. “At best, I will get my money back. Worst case, no.”

Defense attorneys learned of a third veteran who sued Potts for violating the state’s fraudulent trade practices law, winning a judgment of more than $26,000, which Potts has since paid off.

Despite his legal troubles, Potts is still converting buses and says he’s doing it even better. He hopes that the changes he has made to his business will bring back customers.

“We are going to give them their money back. We will take care of them. We are not going to leave anyone in trouble. I apologize to the people who got scared when they heard this,” Potts said.

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But some of his former clients said they had already made up their minds.

“Honestly, I would like it, but I just don’t think it will happen,” said Trudy Krupotsky. “I just don’t think he’s capable.”

Several customers say they feel stuck with unusable atomizers that they can’t even sell due to the risk of electric shock.

Potts insisted he was one of the best Skoolie builders in the business, and on Friday afternoon began supplying the Defender with the names of customers he said were happy with their builds. The defenders are working to confirm this information and will update the story if necessary.

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