ARLINGTON, Neb. (KOLN) - A metal shop owner in Washington County is accused of swindling customers of thousands of dollars after not making good on ordered truck beds.

James Romero, 31, is charged with seven counts of theft by deception $501-$1,499. The charges are class I misdemeanors, and Romero has pled not guilty to each count.

Six people reached out to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office between June and December of 2023 in regards to Romero. Romero is the owner of HOAV Metal Shops which is just northwest of Arlington.

The victims all shared a similar story. They had contracted Romero to build them a custom truck bed. Each paid a deposit with the understanding that the bed would be ready in a few weeks or months. The deposits ranged between $3,625 and $5,635.

Seven customers paid a deposit over the course of 2022 and 2023 and never received their truck beds, according to six arrest affidavits. The customers would become frustrated after months of waiting and demanded refunds.

But the money would never materialize despite consistent attempts to get Romero’s attention, deputies said. The affidavits list multiple times that customers would reach out to Romero only to receive an excuse or no response.

In the spring of 2023, the Better Business Bureau and the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office became aware of the issue. Deputies wrote that each office tried calling Romero three times and never heard back.

In total, prosecutors allege that $26,130 in paid deposits were never refunded to Romero’s customers.

An arrest warrant for Romero was issued on Feb. 16, and he was arrested on Tuesday. A Washington County judge set his bond at 10% of $10,000 on Wednesday.

His next court appearance is scheduled for March 27.