Monday, December 21, 2015

Media Troubleshooter Probe Leads To Contractor's Arrest In Alleged Home Improvement Ripoff; Accused Of Signing Bogus Lien Waiver Despite Stiffing Supplier; Unwitting Homeowner Discovers Problems When Hit With Mechanics' Lien Lawsuit

In Plum, Pennsylvania, WTAE-TV Channel 4 reports:
  • In September, Action News Investigates revealed local homeowners in a legal fight over remodeling their kitchen. Now their contractor has been charged with fraud.

    Joseph and Cindy Villella, of Plum, say they gave contractor Shawn Laughner $3,693 to buy countertops for their kitchen, but according to a criminal complaint, Laughner never paid for the countertops.

    Villella was angry with the way the kitchen turned out after he and his wife spent more than $30,000 remodeling it.

    But he was even angrier when he was hit with a lawsuit by the company that supplied his countertops -- all because, he says, Laughner never paid that supplier.

    “I've already paid. I've got paperwork that says I've paid, statements that say they were paid. And you're coming after me?” Villella said.

    Laughner signed a lien waiver in March saying "all suppliers...have been paid in full and that none" of them "has any claim, demand or lien against the project."

    But now the district attorney is going after Laughner, charging him with theft by deception for allegedly taking $22,043 in total from the Villellas and two other customers.

    Laughner is also charged with deceptive or fraudulent business practices and home improvement fraud.

    "I'm going to fight it," Laughner said by phone. "I'm absolutely going to fight it."

    Laughner said he thought Villella had made arrangements to pay the supplier directly. Villella said that never happened.

    “You know, he could have just paid everybody off and walked away," Villella said. "But for some reason, he chose not to walk away and just created this big mess."

    As for the other two customers, Laughner said he wanted to finish their jobs but they fired him after Action News Investigates first reported Villella's story.

    Laughner faces a preliminary hearing on the charges next month.
Source: Contractor charged with fraud (Accused of taking money and not finishing projects).

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