Wanted business owner fails to show for KATU interview

PORTLAND, Ore. - A business owner with a checkered criminal past, who also owes money to some of his customers, skipped out on a KATU interview on Thursday.

Robert Swain, who once boasted in TV commercials for Robert's Roofing Service that he started the business with "$800 and a beat-up truck," is facing felony gun and drug charges.

Swain is also wanted for failing to appear in a Clackamas County court and we just learned that he is also wanted in Multnomah County on similar charges. He has a criminal history that dates back to 1984.

According to the state, Swain's business is still registered but he owes $19,000 to former customers for work disputes. Four people have filed complaints with the Oregon Department of Justice, including former customer Doug Frieze.

"I went through 12 different estimates with some good ones, some bad ones," Frieze said. "Robert Swain had the golden tongue and convinced me that was the way to go. He was on the higher side of all of my estimates, but I figured I chose the right guy."

Frieze said initially, everything seemed fine.

"When he did the roof, it seemed to be all right until the rain came," Frieze said. "The whole south side of my house leaks."

"It's caused a great deal of frustration and stress," he added. "And I don't have the money to sit here and re-roof the house again. And I'm scared to hire another contractor."

Swain's wife has a restraining order against him and court records show a second woman has taken one out on him as well.

Robert Swain called KATU early Thursday morning saying he wanted to tell his side of the story and was planning to turn himself in. We agreed to meet him at Westmoreland Park late that afternoon, but Swain never showed up.

It's not clear if Swain plans to make good on his promise to turn himself in. As of 11 p.m. on Thursday, he had not shown up in either Clackamas County or Multnomah County to do so.

Swain admitted to KATU on the phone that he had used cocaine and marijuana in the past and said he knew about his unhappy customers.

His mother, Mary Swain, told us the last time she saw her son was around the same time he was supposed to meet our reporter. She said he was heading out to turn himself in.

"That's the best thing for him to do because he's having such a hard time," she told us.

Swain's mother said her son left on foot.

"I wanted to drive him, that's my truck over there, but he said he'd take the bus," she said.

We asked if she felt concerned that he might do something to hurt himself, especially in light of the fact that he never showed for our interview and had not been booked into either a Clackamas County or Multnomah County jail.

She told us that her son had been in possession of a gun in the past and had wanted to commit suicide at that time. But she added that she wasn't worried about him this time around and felt certain her son was going to turn himself in.

"He doesn't have anything to end his life with," she said. "It was just that one time. He was so depressed."

Swain's defense attorney, David Celuch, would not comment on his client's status.

KATU Reporter Bob Heye contributed to this report.