DENVER â A man who was convicted of defrauding investors of thousands of dollars and who professed his love for God while selling tiny homes online has defrauded buyers of their life savings for homes that didn’t have never been delivered, said three alleged victims in lawsuits filed in federal and state courts.
Developer Matt Sowash, founder of Holy Ground Tiny Homes, a Colorado-based nonprofit, promoted the tiny homes on social media, including to his 80,000 TikTok followers, with short videos depicting a An optimistic, God-fearing man selling the American Dream â affordable homes with financing and no credit checks.
âFor people who can’t afford a house all at once, we can finance you. Tiny houses on sacred ground. Get yours today,â Sowash said in a TikTok Video.
âGreat house, available now, about $45,000 is what it’s worth. Come in and take it,â he said in another videowearing a T-shirt emblazoned with “Faith Over Fear”.
Sowash said in an interview that he never sought to take advantage of homebuyers, but he’s not sure he’ll be able to build the 250 homes already paid for, in whole or in part.
He acknowledged that due to supply chain issues and rising building material costs, his nonprofit is up to three years behind schedule. The homes are made at a warehouse in Arapahoe County, Colorado, where he employs at least 25 workers.
âA smart businessman would have filed for bankruptcy and then he would be off the hook and could start over,â Sowash said. âSo all these people lose. I’m obviously not a smart businessman, because I can’t sit around and watch all these people lose their homes.
A plaintiff in one of three lawsuits against Sowash said in an interview that the builder’s persuasiveness and Jesus-loving personality convinced her to part with her hard-earned cash.
âThat’s part of what sold me. He’s charming, compelling and I believe in God,â said Clara Virginia Davis, 24, a schoolteacher in upstate New York.
Davis wired Sowash $42,000 in January for an 8-by-28-foot modular home with an open floor plan, porch, and wood stove. It was supposed to be delivered on August 1, in time for the first day of school, but it never arrived.
“I gave him my life savings,” Davis said.
Davis filed a complaint against Holy Ground in August in US District Court in Colorado, seeking reimbursement and other damages.
She said she lives in an uninsulated camper van and unless her house arrives before winter she will be forced to quit her new job and move in with one of her parents in New Jersey.
“I’m just extremely desperate,” Davis said.
Sowash said he tried to call Davis about his home, but never got a response until his lawyer contacted him a few weeks later to negotiate a settlement. Sowash said the house was not due to be completed until next month, but construction should have started three weeks ago.
In other court case Filed in June in Arapahoe County District Court in Colorado, Robyn and Mark Bellamy, who live in Oregon, said they paid Holy Ground nearly $70,000 last year for two modular homes that they never received.
The Bellamys and their attorney could not be reached for comment, but the lawsuit lays out their case:
Robyn Bellamy paid $47,924 in February 2021 for a home that was due to be delivered five months later. As the deadline approached, Holy Ground informed her that delivery would be delayed. Then it was delayed again and again and again.
She was last informed that her house would be delivered in May, but she still hasn’t received it. She asked for a refund, but Holy Ground said she could only return the money if she was able to sell the unbuilt structure to someone else, according to the lawsuit.
Mark Bellamy said he agreed to pay Holy Ground $32,477 in installments over 12 months for a small house of his own two months after his wife bought hers. But as uncertainty about the business became apparent due to his wife’s experiences, he stopped making payments after already losing $21,600. He asked for a refund but never received one.
“We’re still in the process with this suit,” Sowash said. “They were on our build list. I had called them to start working on their (floor) plans and they told me to keep in touch with their lawyer.
Sowash has faced many legal issues in the past. He was convicted in 2009 to five years in prison for defrauding investors of more than $470,000 who bet on an amateur poker league he founded and for stealing $140,000 from three other investors who believed he was seeking business opportunities investment for them.
He ended up serving about two years of his sentence.
Sowash was also the target of a 2007 murder plot designed by a disgruntled league investor and a private detective the investor had hired, according to Colorado law enforcement officials.
The men planned to kidnap Sowash, force his legs into a box with poisonous rattlesnakes until they bit him, then take him on a hiking trail where he would be left to die. The plot was never carried out and each man pleaded guilty to one count of extortion.
Sowash, who is currently on parole, said he “found God” while serving his prison sentence 13 years ago.
âI was rescued from a jail cell in 2009 and from that moment God gave me the vision to love and serve the community,â he said. “I thought building tiny houses would be a great way to fund that.”
A self-proclaimed handyman, Sowash said he built his first tiny house in his garage in 2019, selling it for $12,000. From there, requests for homes started coming in, he said.
The structures are all 8ft wide but can be up to 14ft, with the average cost being around $29,000, he said.
His latest legal problem came on September 2 when lender Kinetic Direct Funding filed a complaint against him and his nonprofit organization, Revelations in Christ, in state court in Brooklyn, New York.
Sowash said he took out a $400,000 loan from Kinetic to build the tiny houses, but couldn’t keep up with the payments due to high interest rates.
“I just couldn’t do it,” he said.
Kinetic Direct Funding officials did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Sowash informed customers in an August 31 letter that home deliveries were up to three years behind schedule.
âThe past few months have been very exhausting in terms of the struggles to make sure everyone gets the house they orderedâ or receives a refund, Sowash wrote.
Sowash said in the letter that Holy Ground had delivered more than 250 homes in the past 20 months, but nearly 100 were sold at a loss of $8,000 to $10,000 each due to high material costs.
For Theresa Meggitt of Lakewood, Colorado, who paid $14,000 for a tiny house in February 2021 that she never received, Showash’s explanation isn’t enough.
“Nobody will do anything and I’m frustrated,” said Meggitt, 54. “They still haven’t started at my house, and I don’t think they have any intention of doing so.”
Meggitt said she did not file a complaint because she still held out hope that her house would be built.
“She’s definitely one of those on our build schedule that’s coming up very soon,” Sowash said.
Alexandra Maes, 28, of Greeley, Colorado, said she was touched by Sowash’s declared love for God and spoke of using part of the proceeds to build a sober living center for those recovering . She used her and her partner’s savings of $25,000 to buy their dream home, she said.
It arrived in November, six months late, but there were holes in the walls all over the house, which she marked with blue tape, and another hole which was covered with pieces of wood, among other flaws, she said. Sowash refused to make repairs, she said.
Sowash said he didn’t remember Maes, but always fixed the houses for structural damage upon delivery.
âThere was never a client that we refused to go out and take care of,â Sowash said. “I wish I could delve into that.”
Maes said she couldn’t afford to take legal action or fix the house.
“I don’t have the money,” said Maes, a mental health counselor. âIt has been a nightmare from the start. It chains you to religion. He claims to be a Christian helping people get well.