SUBLETTE COUNTY – It isn’t against the law for a contractor who’s on supervised probation for felony theft to be sued for breaching contracts and not starting – or finishing – promised jobs.
Although many dissatisfied clients of Triple Peak Landscaping in Marbleton, owned by Shane and Ramsey Copeland, voiced frustrations on Facebook and among themselves, it wasn’t until this summer that court cases were filed against Triple Peak Landscaping and the Copelands for failing to pay bills, finish jobs or pay back investment loans.
These civil cases all come down to money.
In 2021, Shane Copeland was charged with felony theft of a Big Tex work trailer that its owner reported stolen from beside a highway near Cheyenne. The provenance was uncovered when Copeland accidentally tipped a piece of heavy equipment off the trailer in downtown Pinedale and damaged street pavement.
A Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper responded, looking for its vehicle identification number, eventually finding one that revealed it was the stolen work trailer. The roadside mishap turned into a felony theft charge in 9th District Court against Copeland. He eventually pleaded “no contest” with a proposed plea agreement between private attorney Rives White and then-county deputy attorney Stan Cannon.
On May 27, 2021, Cannon told Judge Marv Tyler that Copeland initially “avoided responsibility” but later explained family issues that led him to take charge of the work trailer. “We believe the no contest plea reflects the responsibility (Copeland) is taking in this case.”
White told Judge Tyler, “It’s not as if Shane is skating … or getting away with something here.”
Judge Tyler sentenced Copeland to 2 to 4 years in prison, then suspended it for three years of supervised probation with stipulations that Copeland not violate any criminal laws.
At this time, Copeland is not charged with any criminal offenses but faces looming civil complaints filed by unhappy clients from three counties. He was president and his wife vice president on most contracts that she transacted in these civil cases.
Sublette County Attorney Mike Crosson confirmed this week that in general, civil suits do not affect a person’s status while under supervised probation.
Triple Peak Landscaping, LLC, (which dissolved recently) and Shane and Ramsey Copeland are named in the civil cases, from small claims of of $3,449 to larger breach-of-contract cases seeking as much as $134,000, court records show.
This week, Sublette County Sheriff KC Lehr confirmed the couple and their business are the subjects of a now four-county active investigation – Sublette, Teton, Lincoln and Sweetwater – being coordinated by the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI).
“Yes, there is an active investigation into Triple Peak Landscaping and Shane and Ramsey Copeland,” Sheriff Lehr said. “We are working jointly with DCI and the surrounding counties. We are in the early stages.”
He explained calls to his office began after a woman in Rock Springs complained online about paying the Copelands for a new roof. From there it took off.
“We had a number of complaints (about unfinished work and money paid) from Sublette County residents. We have complaints from each county,” he said.
Those calls from unhappy customers continued right up to Sept. 14, the day Sheriff Lehr spoke with the Pinedale Roundup: “Even we don’t know how wide this is spread.”
He said some do not want to take action against the company or the Copelands, even to recover the work or money owed them. Those who do should contact their county sheriff’s office, he said.
“Some people don’t want to open a case. The majority of people just want their money back or the job to be completed.”
‘Promise to pay’
The first blight was a seemingly paltry small claim for $3,449.13. It was filed in Sublette County Circuit Court on July 25 by Porcupine Nursery, south of Jackson in Teton County, after Jennifer Hall’s attempts to reach the Copelands for payment failed.
“Defendant picked up trees and shrubs with the promise to pay for this plant material the following day,” she wrote.
Neither of the Copelands appeared at the Aug. 29 hearing and Judge Curt Haws entered judgment against the Copelands for the requested amount plus court fees. Small claims in Circuit Court are capped at $6,000.
On Aug. 8, Maureen Dempsey of Pinedale filed a small claim against Triple Peak Landscaping and Ramsey Copeland for $6,000. The hearing was set for Sept. 12.
“Triple Peak Landscaping agreed to build a pole barn in a contract dated 1/30/21 to be completed by 4/30/21,” it says. “The pole barn has not been completed and materials to complete the structure have not been delivered. It needs a roof and siding and a garage door.”
The Copelands both appeared at the Sept. 12 hearing and did not contest the $6,000 amount. However, Ramsey Copeland asked Judge Haws to remove her name from the complaint.
“The main reason we’re here is not to argue” but the claim shouldn’t be against her personally, just the company, she said.
The judge asked Dempsey about removing the wife’s name; Dempsey agreed. After they admitted the obligation, Judge Haws found for Dempsey.
After the Sept. 12 small claims hearing, the Pinedale Roundup asked the Copelands if either had comment on the larger lawsuit filed against them on July 21 by Big Piney rancher William F. Murdock.
“I have no comment to make on that,” Shane Copeland replied.
The complaint against the company and both Copelands lists “breach of contract and unjust enrichment” totaling $110,000 and $33,000 in other costs for which Murdock seeks repayment, records show.
It claims that the Copelands “executed Triple Peak Landscaping Business Investment Contract” with Murdock on Oct. 26, 2021, for $80,000 and a second “investment” for $30,000, records show. The contracts outlined repayment terms for Murdock’s investments that the complaint says were never fulfilled. It seeks as-yet unspecified payments and damages.
Murdock’s attorney, Travis Bing, moved for a default judgment on Aug. 18 after the defendants’ “failure to file a responsive pleading” in 9th Circuit Court. Judge Tyler has set a status conference for Sept. 21.
Two more “breach of contract” civil suits were filed on Sept. 9 and Sept. 12 in their respective courts against Triple Peak Landscaping and the Copelands.
The first, claiming breach of contract, breach of implied covenant of good faith and conversion, was filed Sept. 9 in the 3rd Judicial District Court in Lincoln County by Kraig Fromme of Fairview, near Afton.
Frome contracted with TPL to build a pole barn for $24,486.40, it says, and paid for 16 posts for the building. However, Copeland delivered only 13 posts and then dug holes for only 10, it says.
“This was the extent of the work completed on the entire project.”
The Fromes delivered a “demand letter” for repayment of $14,436.84, giving TPL until July 23 to respond. They offered to keep the 13 posts and delete that cost from the amount sought, it shows.
“After no response from (the Copelands), (Frome) engaged a different contractor to build the pole barn, which was completed in August,” wrote Frome’s attorney, J. Austin Dunlap of Jackson.
The suit seeks the demanded money plus costs to hire another contractor and other “bad faith” dealings. Further, it says, the Copelands “commingled” work and personal funds and because the Copelands did not operate the company “as a separate entity,” each can be sued individually.
The Town of Marbleton accepted Triple Peak Landscaping’s May 2021 bid and work schedule to prepare for and place a prefabricated building by the Marbleton Community Pond. The contract for $53,143.20 was written and submitted by TPL vice president Ramsey Copeland on Aug. 25, 2021.
With authority to oversee it, councilmember Roger McMannis reported at subsequent town council meetings the project was far behind schedule. The town council revised the work schedule to facilitate its completion but as deadlines passed with work undone, the town council grew anxious.
Marbleton attorney Thayne Peterson drafted a promissory note signed March 16 by Shane Copeland and Mayor Jim Robinson that Triple Peak Landscaping “promises to pay … the principal sum of $37,553.42.”
This money had been paid to Triple Peak Landscaping in advance for work that was not completed but TPL or Copelands did not have the money to repay.
Copeland agreed to pay the town back in monthly payments of $3,129.42, but only paid twice, in March and April, says the Sept. 12 breach of contract suit. The town seeks payment for the remaining principal of $31,294.52 plus $938.82 in interest.
“Obviously we would have preferred to settle this without going to court,” Peterson said this week.
No responses were filed to these lawsuits at press time.
An attempt to reach Copeland’s attorney in the Murdock suit, Clark Stith, was unanswered.
The Copelands and Triple Peak Landscaping were given opportunities to respond or comment; no contact came from them before publication.