Friday, September 23, 2016

Complaints Continue Against Iowa Home Improvement Contractor With Dubious History Of Allegedly Stiffing Homeowners After Pocketing Their Money; Local Cops Allow Him To Get Away With It, Saying That Where There's A Contract, It's A Civil Matter!

In Windsor Heights, Iowa, The Des Moines Register reports in columnist Lee Rood's Reader's Watchdog column:
  • Here’s what we know about Timothy Lee Peek:

    He has a habit of walking away with other people’s money.

    He doesn’t pay debts.

    He shies away from courthouses.

    Which is why Pam Said wonders why law enforcement hasn’t done more about the fact that Peek, owner of T and J Home Improvement in Greenfield, cashed a $16,000 down-payment check last spring for a big job at her Windsor Heights home and disappeared without lifting a finger.

    “You can’t tell me he’s not breaking the law when he’s taking that kind of money,” she said. “It seems he just gets away with it and gets away with it and no one cares.’

    Said, 65, says she and her 72-year-old husband found Peek on Thumbtack.com and hired him to redo their driveway and sidewalk, add some siding to the front of their house and build a dining room addition. She hadn’t even picked out what color siding she wanted when Peek took her check in March and never came back.

    A month later, a Polk County judge issued a warrant for Peek’s arrest for failing to appear in court after not paying a $6,712 judgment left over from 2007, court records show. The court ordered Peek's wages be garnished, but those payments stopped after Peek paid $1,200, according to Curt McCormick, the lawyer trying to collect.

    A year ago, Peek cashed a $7,900 down payment check for a deck job around a pool in Waukee and didn’t hammer a nail.

    Tim and Marcia Tope told the Iowa Attorney General’s Office in a complaint that Peek was supposed to begin the job in October 2015. From then until July this year, he blamed other jobs, weather and sickness for failing to get the work started.

    Then, he claimed in June a refund check was in the mail. It wasn’t, according to the complaint.

    In Decatur County, Peek’s got another judgment against him for $6,000. He’s also got convictions for theft in Decatur and Clarke counties, assault in Wayne County, and he’s been sued for back rent and unpaid building supplies.

    Talk to him on the phone, though, and he’s got an answer for most everything.
    ***
    Windsor Heights police told me they looked into Pam Said’s complaint for three months but weren’t able to come up with probable cause for his arrest.

    Sgt. Derek Meyer contended the case was a civil matter because the two had a contract,(1) and Said is contending Peek broke that contract.

    I told Meyer I have written about similar cases in which contractors were charged criminally for taking large sums of money and failing to deliver work.

    He said each case is different.
For more, see Contractor who takes $16,000 has a history of not doing work.
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(1) The idea that a scammer can immunize himself from criminal liability merely by incorporating the use of a written contract in his scheme to defraud is an idiotic notion. For the cop to dismiss this case as a civil matter simply because of the existence of a written contract is a reflection that this particular police department (and possibly the local prosecutor's office) may not have the resources (and/or possibly the expertise) necessary to adequately prosecute this type of fraud.

Courts have long ago addressed the authority criminal prosecutors have to "pierce through" attempts to disguise a blatant criminal ripoff as a common, legitimate business deal through the use of a business contract, thereby allowing them to overcome the scammer's common defense that the arrangement was just a civil transaction that should be handled as a civil lawsuit, not a criminal prosecution. See, for example:

People v. Frankfort, (1952) 114 Cal.App.2d 680, 700; 251 P.2d 401:
  • The simple answer to this argument is that "The People prosecuting for a crime committed in relation to a contract are not parties to the contract and are not bound by it. They are at liberty in such a prosecution to show the true nature of the transaction." (People v. Chait, 69 Cal.App.2d 503, 519 [159 P.2d 445]; People v. McEntyre, 32 Cal.App.2d Supp. 752, 760 [84 P.2d 560]; People v. Jones, 61 Cal.App.2d 608, 620 [143 P.2d 726]; People v. Pierce, supra, p. 605.)
People v. Jones, (1943) 61 Cal.App.2d 608, 620 [143 P.2d 726]:
  • Defendant argues that the deal with each "seller" was a civil transaction; [...] Cloaked in the draperies of his corporation and pretending to act in its behalf, he boldly approached his unsuspecting victims.

    [***]

    Although each deal in its incipiency bore the color and trappings of a normal, civil contract, yet when subjected to a postmortem it exhaled the stench and disclosed the carcass of a fraud. (People v. Epstein, 118 Cal.App. 7, 10 [4 P.2d 555].) There appears no sign of good faith at any turn. Each taking and appropriation was a grand theft.

    The use of the corporate name and the promises made in accomplishing his purpose were a camouflage of such common variety that no excess of genius was required to discern the fraud. Parol evidence of all that occurred was admissible to show the intention of defendant. (People v. Robinson, 107 Cal.App. 211, 221 [290 P. 470].)

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