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Contractor Gets 8 to 16 Years for Stealing $163K from Customers

September 19, 2016


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Marc Furber, 215.348.6339, mjfurber@buckscounty.org

 An unlicensed Langhorne contractor was sentenced today to serve eight to 16 years in state prison for bilking multiple homeowners of more than $163,000.

The scope of John New’s home-improvement crime wave covered three counties, eight homes and 11 victims, most over age 60. It spanned nearly five years under three corporate entities, each unlicensed or fraudulently licensed and insured.

Left in New’s wake were unfinished kitchens, bathrooms, roofs, patios and tens of thousands of dollars in lost deposits. Several victims had to shell out many thousands more to correct substandard work that New did complete. 

To Bucks County Senior Judge Clyde W. Waite, these circumstances justified eight consecutive one- to two-year state prison sentences, one for each household. He also ordered New to pay a total of $163,291.92 to his victims, none of which New has raised.

“This should send any message that needs to be sent as to what will be tolerated,” Waite said.

New’s punishment was the latest in a series of lengthy sentences imposed recently on fraudulent contractors by Bucks County judges.

Last year, John and Ryan Thayer, a father-son team from Levittown, received state prison sentences of seven to 20 years and six to 20 years, respectively. The Thayers admitted fleecing 10 victims out of more than $675,000.

The longest sentence given a contractor in Bucks County was imposed on John Succi of Yardley in February 2015. Succi was sent to state prison for 15 to 30 years for stealing $2.5 million from a dozen victims in one of Pennsylvania’s largest contractor-fraud cases.

New pleaded guilty on June 13 to eight felony counts of receiving advance payment for services and failing to perform them.

He also pleaded guilty to one count each of theft by deception and defrauding his insurance provider by obtaining coverage with false information. Waite imposed concurrent one- to two-year sentences for those crimes.

Bucks County Detective Eric Landamia began investigating New in August 2015. The investigation found that New had incorporated three different businesses for home improvement work. Only one ever was registered with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office.

Pennsylvania’s Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act, which took effect July 1, 2009, requires all contractors performing more than $5,000 per year of home improvement business to register with the Attorney General. The registration application requires disclosure of prior home improvement-related criminal convictions, bankruptcies, civil judgments and other information.

Landamia found that New had lied to register one of his businesses, NUHL Construction & Management Group, in December 2012. New failed to disclose multiple lawsuits that had been filed against him and/or his business. New also operated his business without a state registration after it expired in December 2014.

In addition, New used false information to obtain an insurance policy for his business. Not only did he submit the faulty state registration information to his insurer, he falsely told the insurer that he used no subcontractors.

After his policy expired in October 2013, New continued without insurance.

New typically stole from customers by signing a contract, collecting substantial down payments and failing to complete the work promised.

Victims were forced to hire new contractors to finish the work at added cost. Some contractors had to re-do work that New had botched or performed contrary to engineering plans.

“John New has stolen $17,000 from my family, destroyed our back yard, ruined our trust in people, and put us in (a) bad financial position that will impact my family for years into the future,” one victim, who hired New to install a new patio and deck, wrote in a letter to Waite.

New stole seven years of home-improvement savings, the victim wrote, and left his property unsafe and looking “like a bomb exploded in our back yard.”

An older couple wrote of how they had wanted to renovate their bathroom to include a walk-in tub for their adult daughter, who has cerebral palsy. Instead, New “left us stranded with no tub, no toilet, and no sink,” just a shower that was not working.

The couple wound up paying $19,295 for a project that was expected to cost less than $9,000. “That someone would take advantage of a project that was essentially going to make life better for a disabled woman and her caregiver parents still leaves our nerves frayed and stomachs cold,” the couple wrote to the judge.

“The damage to these victims was in many ways irreparable,” said Deputy District Attorney Marc J. Furber, who prosecuted New.

Yet New has paid “not one penny” to make his victims whole, Furber said. “It doesn’t take much to see what the defendant’s purpose was here, and that was to defraud them.”

Waite looked askance when New asked for a sentence of probation to allow him to work for the money he owes the victims.  “I just want to make this right by everyone,” New said.

Furber replied that the victims already understand, based on “a lot of empty promises” from New, the slim chances of recovering their money. He said a substantial prison sentence would send a stronger message of accountability to others.

“Generally, contractors must know that this is wrong,” Furber said.

Approved for release by Michele Kelly Walsh, Deputy District Attorney.

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