Officials warn of scam artists |
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Washington County homeowners are being victimized by home repair scam artists who take money for a down payment to buy materials, then disappear without finishing the job, officials warned this week.

North Franklin Township police Chief Mark Kavakich said there are 30 open cases countywide, five of them reported recently in his township.

City of Washington police are aware of two home repair scam attempts so far this year, police Lt. Robert Redlinger said. Since Tuesday, two homeowners have reported to police that two men posing as contractors offered to repair their roofs, then asked for money to buy materials. Police believe the two men were charged previously with violations, Redlinger said.

Redlinger said a request for money in advance should be a red flag.

“Reputable guys don’t do that,” he said. “Legitimate contractors don’t drive around looking for work.”

Redlinger advises homeowners that if someone knocks on the door and claims to have noticed a repair that needs to be done “don’t invite him in … don’t deal with him.”

Homeowners should get the person’s license number and description, then call police, Redlinger said.

North Franklin officials discussed home scams at their Thursday meeting.

“They ask for more money and terrorize these old people with liens against their house,” Supervisor Mike Quinn said

Township Solicitor Jack Cambest said he will look at the possibility of requiring that transient contractors register with the township.

Kavakich asked if the amendment could include a ban on having elderly residents pay in advance for the work.

“It’s hard to protect against residents … making dumb decisions,” Cambest said. “That’s not what ordinances are for. I think the most you can do is require (contractors) to register and pay a fee.”

South Strabane Township police last week charged Martin Hill, 39, of Washington, with deceptive business practices and two counts of theft by deception. Detective Sgt. Walter Alrutz said Hill is charged with scamming two couples — one in February and the other in 1998. The couple scammed in February gave Hill a check for more than $800 after his crew did two days of demolition work on the interior of their home. He cashed the check, but never returned to finish the job, Alrutz said.

Robert W. Decory, 35, of Prosperity, was arrested April 25 by North Franklin police and charged with theft by deception and deceptive or fraudulent business practices. He is accused of taking $200 from a 76-year-old woman to buy materials for repairs to her deck but never returned to do the work, North Franklin Patrolman Ron Fox said.

Police telephone numbers

  • North Franklin police: (724) 228-9610.
  • South Strabane: (724) 229-4600.
  • City of Washington: (724) 229-4600.

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