Crime & Courts

Log cabin builders swindled millions from buyers, then fled to Lake Norman, police say

A North Carolina couple who build log homes bilked buyers out of millions of dollars before fleeing to their Lake Norman condo, McDowell County sheriff’s investigators said.

The builders, 50-year-old Del Jon Bristol Jr. and his 46-year-old wife, Serena Stamm Bristol, were each charged with embezzlement and five counts of exploiting the elderly, according to a McDowell County Sheriff’s Office news release.

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Del Jon Bristol Jr. McDowell County Sheriff's Office

“Additional charges are forthcoming,” investigators said in Wednesday’s release.

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Serena Stamm Bristol McDowell County Sheriff's Office

The Marion couple remained in the McDowell County Jail on Thursday, each on $700,000 bail.

The Bristols are accused of swindling buyers in McDowell, Rutherford, Buncombe, Polk, Madison and Henderson counties in Western North Carolina, investigators said in the release.

The couple owned World Outdoor Log Homes, based out of their Marion home, officers said.

“Over the past couple of months, reports have been pouring in from victims” in the six counties who contracted with the Bristols to build their homes, McDowell sheriff’s officers said in the release.

The couple is accused of taking “hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time from most of the victims — either from them personally or from their construction loans — for down payments, purchasing of materials and paying subcontractors, but the money was not used for that and is still unaccounted for,” according to the release.

At least 20 victims across the counties were scammed “for well over $2 million,” sheriff’s officers said in the release.

“Earlier this month, the Bristols abruptly left town,” according to the release. McDowell County sheriff’s investigators “tracked the two to a condo on Lake Norman” on Jan. 10 and arrested them.

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Joe Marusak has been a reporter for The Charlotte Observer since 1989 covering the people, municipalities and major news events of the region, and was a news bureau editor for the paper. He currently reports on breaking news.