ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Three men have been arrested and charged over a large scale fraud scheme which left “dozens” of New York homeowners and businesses out of pocket. Robert Decker, Scott Driscoll, and Robert Langlais are facing 17 felony charges, including fraud and grand larceny, after allegedly obtaining hundreds of thousands of dollars for work that was never performed or was poorly done.
Decker and Driscoll operated SJR Enterprises, LLC (SJR) as a home improvement contracting company between May 2018 and October 2019.
After receiving over $25,000, the men allegedly left one Albany resident without plumbing, electricity, and heat through the entire winter of 2019.
“Many of these victims invested their life savings so that they could improve their homes for themselves and their families, but instead of building newer and safer homes, all that these three defendants built was a house of lies.
We won’t allow anyone to take advantage of and steal from innocent New Yorkers trying to build better lives for themselves.”
Attorney General Letitia James
One homeowner took out a U.S. Housing and Urban Development Loan (203k) to fund almost $90,000 worth of renovations. The indictment claims Decker and Driscoll fraudulently obtained and diverted nearly $25,000 of the homeowner’s loan funds for materials, and then spent the remainder on personal expenses.
Under the terms of the loan, the homeowner hired Langlais to inspect and review Driscoll and Decker’s work before releasing funds from the loan.
Langlais is said to have fraudulently signed off on work that had either not been completed or poorly done. Over $5,000 was claimed for “cleanup costs” despite debris being strewn across the yard.
Robert and Janet Beaudoin in Cohoes were victims of all three alleged scammers. They say they were effectively swindled into trusting Decker and Driscoll with an extensive renovation project, adding that Decker presented himself well, showed up in a “shiny Mercedes,” and knew the industry very well.
But they were left with a porch that wasn’t structurally sound, crooked windows and doorways, and lots of other shabby work.
They tell NEWS10 Langlais approved the renovations and cleanup, but their yard was full of debris that was tossed out of the windows.
While the Beaudoins say they did their research, they caution others to go even further.
“We did not do enough. We did some,” Janet Beaudoin told NEWS10, “and we actually took into account that he was doing work for a very prominent business in this area, so we thought, if they’re using them, then they must be good.”
According to the Attorney General’s statement: “the homeowner was left living in a house with no siding, broken windows, no working kitchen, and old windows and siding strewn across the yard. The home was left in this disarray for more than eight months.”
“Our joint investigation found that these individuals took hundreds of thousands of dollars from homeowners and instead of performing work as promised, diverted funds for their own personal use.
We will not tolerate this illegal behavior, and I applaud the work of our members and our partners at the Attorney General’s Office for holding these bad actors accountable and bringing a measure of justice for the victims.”
Superintendent Keith Corlett
New York State Police
The men are also accused of taking nearly $100,000 worth of fraudulent loans and in materials that were never paid for.
According to the Attorney General’s Office, the money was then siphoned off for personal gain. This included: nearly $400,000 in cash withdrawals and payments to themselves, nearly $150,000 to pay personal and business debts, and over $50,000 in retail purchases through iTunes and Amazon, and at numerous restaurants.
After numerous homeowners filed complaints, a joint investigation by the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau in the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and the New York State Police’s Financial Crimes Unit.
After becoming the subject of numerous complaints in 2003, Decker was permanently banned from operating as a home improvement contractor in the state of New York unless he filed a $100,000 bond with the Attorney General’s Office. No such bond was ever filed.
Decker and Driscoll have been charged with:
- One count of Second Degree Grand Larceny
- 12 counts of Third Degree Grand Larceny
- One count of First Degree Scheme to Defraud
Langlais has been charged with:
- One count of First Degree Scheme to Defraud
- One count of Third Degree Grand Larceny
Driscoll and Langlais are jountly charged with:
- Three counts of third degree Falsifying Business Records
If convicted, Decker and Driscoll face up to 20 years in prison, while Langlais could spend seven years behind bars.
Driscoll and Langlais were released pending trial on October 5. Decker was released with electronic monitoring.
Attorney General James recommends practicing the following tips to protect against becoming a victim of a home improvement scam:
- Shop around: Get at least three estimates from reputable contractors that include specific information about the materials and services to be provided for the job.
- Get it in writing: Insist on a written contract that includes the price and description of the work needed.
- Don’t pay unreasonable advance sums: Negotiate a payment schedule tied to the completion of specific stages of the job. Never pay the full price up front.
- Get references: Check with the Better Business Bureau, banks, suppliers, and neighbors. Always contact references provided to you. Residents of New York City, or Westchester, Nassau, or Suffolk Counties can check their local consumer affairs office.
- Know your rights: Consumers have three days to cancel after signing a contract for home improvements. All cancellations must be in writing