Three men doing contracting work in Rockland County have been hit with theft charges for cheating homeowners out or more than $25,000 for home improvements that were either not finished or never even started, according to District Attorney Thomas Zugibe.
The arrests resulted from an investigation conducted by the Special Investigations Unit of the Office of the District Attorney and the Rockland County Department of Consumer Affairs.
“We have zero tolerance for unscrupulous contractors defrauding homeowners,” Zugibe said. “Workmen who take payment for renovations, then purposely fail to complete, or sometimes to even start a project, are deliberately breaking the law and are stealing a victims’ hard-earned money." We are aggressive on these cases and will make certain that any contractor who swindles a customer receives prompt, appropriate penalties.”
— Vatche Galstian, 41, of 23 Third St., Congers; he is accused of one count of Grand Larceny in the Fourth Degree, a class “E” Felony.
— John Hill, 50, of 255 Pine Island Turnpike, Warwick, NY; he is accused of one count of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class “D” Felony.
— Mark Baumann, 46, of 25 Lindbergh Lane, New City; he is accused of one count of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a class “D” Felony.
Zubibe said Galstian is charged with stealing $1,500 from a 90-year-old Spring Valley homeowner with whom he had contracted to replace a sewer connection from his residence. The customer gave Galstian a down payment of $1,500, which represented half of the $2,800 total cost of the project, but the work was not done, Zugibe said.
When the customer demanded the money back, Galstian gave the victim two checks, which bounced, Zugibe said. The investigation revealed that Galstian was illegally working under the license of a retired contractor who never gave permission or authority for the use of his license, Zugibe said.
Galstian was arraigned in the Spring Valley Village Court by Judge Alan Simon and was released pending a May 12 hearing.
Hill, who worked at Lowe’s Home Improvement in Orangeburg, was soliciting business from store customers while working his regular shift, Zugibe said.
Zugibe said he was hired by a Valley Cottage couple for several home improvement projects, including outdoor stucco work and replacement of a new front door. However, Zugibe said Hill provided a false certificate of insurance and a fake home improvement license to the victims.
After an initial payment of $8,200, Hill performed minimal work on the home, then never returned, Zugibe said. The victims contacted Lowe’s and discovered that materials for the project were never ordered.
When the customers demanded the return of their money, the Hill gave a $2,000 check to victims, which bounced. Hill was arraigned in Clarkstown Town Court by Judge Scott Ugell and released pending a May 16 hearing.
Zugibe said that in May 2009, Baumann, a home improvement contractor, entered into a large-scale home renovation contract with a Pearl River homeowner. During the next year, Baumann is accused of failing to pay about $16,000 to various subcontractors. As a result, a Mechanics Lien was placed on victim’s home by plumbing subcontractor. Zugibe said the customer later discovered that other subcontractors had not been paid.
Zugibe said Baumann failed to respond to repeated inquiries by the victim regarding payments to subcontractors and Baumann is accused of walking away from the job and failing to provide an accounting or return of the victim’s money.
Baumann was arraigned in Clarkstown Town Court by Judge Rolf Thorsen and released pending a May 16 hearing.
“The results of this sweep should serve to alert homeowners. If you're looking for a home improvement contractor, check with Consumer Protection and only do business with licensed contractors that have a solid reputation,” Zugibe said.
The District Attorney's Office and the Rockland County Department of Consumer Protection say that homeowners who believe that they have been similarly victimized by Galstian, Hill and Baumann should come forward.