Company takes $10,000 from local school but doesn't deliver robotics equipment

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Staff at Sugar Creek Charter School called WBTV for help getting its money back for robots the school paid for but never got.

The school has an after-school robotics club, where students in fourth through eighth grade assemble and program robots for use in competition.

In order to be a part of the club, students must submit applications and have two teacher recommendations.

Nichelle Harris, the school's technology director, oversees the club and said its popular with students.

"I always have to turn kids away because there's so many who want to participate," Harris said. "Our demographic of kids - mostly low-income kids - won't have this opportunity; they may not be afforded the opportunity if Sugar Creek doesn't provide it for them."

Last school year, in January 2017, Harris and school administrators decided they wanted to try expanding the club. In order to do that, they had to get more robots. So, they placed an order with Cyberkids Robotics - a non-profit corporation based in Lenoir, NC - and paid the company $10,000.

Harris said the school got its first set of robots and training on how to use them practically for free from the company. She said the January 2017 order was part of a program, she was led to believe, where the company would match the money put up by the school to purchase additional robots and more training.

"It sounded good, yes," Harris said. "But none of that has happened."

Emails and other records provided by the school to WBTV show the robots were first supposed to arrive in spring 2017. Then, later, the company said the robots would arrive in early August, take a week to assemble and then be delivered to the school.

Flash forward to March 2018 and the robots still haven't arrived.

"At this point, I think we just want the money back and we move forward and kind of put this behind us and no longer have to deal with this," Harris said.

But the company's owner, Bill Kent, said he was still working to order the robots that the school paid for when reached by WBTV this week.

Originally, Kent said there had been a mix-up with his supplier that resulted in the wrong robots being shipped. He claimed the school hadn't waited that much longer for their robots, though, because he said they weren't supposed to arrive until October 2017, something refuted by the emails supplied by the school.

Two days later, Kent sent WBTV an email claiming he had ordered the school's robots and said he would send shipping information for the order as soon as he received it.

The next day, Kent sent WBTV a screenshot of an Amazon "Track Package" page that had no details of what was being shipped and no confirmation that the order was related to Sugar Creek Charter School.

When pressed further by a WBTV reporter, Kent said he would send an invoice for the order.

But the invoice Kent sent to WBTV appeared to have been doctored when compared to other Amazon invoices. The document sent to WBTV by Kent contained product information and shipping information but no details on how much money his company had paid, which is typically included on Amazon invoices.

Kent did not respond to an email asking why that information was missing.

Document: Click here to see the invoice submitted by Kent to WBTV

The company appeared to have deleted its Facebook page less than a day after WBTV's story first aired on TV.

Harris, the robotics club adviser, said she feels like the school has been ripped off. She doesn't understand why an organization that claims to have a mission of helping kids would do such a thing.

"Why? Why? Where's our money?" she asked. "If it's not for the kids, who's it for?"

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