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I'm sorry to hear about your situation. Regarding your payroll checks, I'm assuming that you've earned these wages due. If so, you can file a wage claim with the Department of Labor and Human Rights. The process can be found here: http://www.nd.gov/labor/wage/wage.html
As far as your tools, that's a bit more complicated. If it was always intended that this would be a "loan" of your tools, you can be able to claim them back. Send a demand letter demanding return within 30 days, otherwise you will pursue legal action against him, seeking that amount plus any additional damages as allowed by law. Send this letter certified, return receipt requested, as well as a copy sent regular mail. Keep a copy for yourself, as well as the return receipt number so that you can show the court that you made a demand for the unreturned items.
If they still don't return them, you'll need to sue. Do a search on the web for your county and "small claims court." You should find either a website or phone number to the small claims clerk. Ask them what you need to do to bring such a lawsuit. The small claims clerk will give you guidance on how to file this suit and how to get the other party served with notice. You will receive a hearing date, at which you should present your evidence and ask for a judgment telling him to return the tools or to compensate you for the fair market value of those tools.
Hope that clears things up a bit. If you have any other questions, please let me know. If not, and you have not yet, please rate my answer AND press the "submit" button, if applicable. Please note that I don't get any credit for the time and effort that I spent on this answer unless and until you rate it positively (3 or more stars). Thank you, ***** ***** luck to you!