If you experience contractor fraud, a long and complicated civil suit or filing a report with a consumer protection agency are not your only options. There's another way to get the law on your side: by filing criminal charges against the contractor.
When New Jersey homeowner Mark Zarrilli gave contractor Gary Weinstein of Toms River a $7,000 deposit to install a concrete patio around his pool, he was promised the job would be completed in two weeks. But after three months of unsuccessfully trying to get Weinstein to finish the job, Zarrilli took the matter into his own hands and reported the contractor to the Monmouth County Prosecutors Office, who charged Weinstein with theft by deception.
Weinstein plead guilty to the charge. In the plea agreement for this case of contractor fraud, Weinstein faces three years of probation but will avoid prison if he agrees to repay $4,000 of the money.
According to Assistant Prosecutor Charlie Clark, being able to file charges of theft by a contractor really depends on the facts of the case. "You need to be able to prove a particular defendant had criminal intent when signing the contract. We had evidence to suggest he was not going to perform when he entered into the contract. He plead guilty and admitted just that."
If you think you've become the victim of theft by deception, Clark says the first step is to file a report with your local police department.
Commenting in a prepared statement regarding his experience reporting contractor fraud, homeowner Mark Zarrilli said, "The guilty plea brought closure to a long and arduous journey, which began with the simple act of attempting to improve my family's home nearly 18 months ago. This conviction and sentencing should send a clear message to all would-be rogue home improvement contractors."