I-TEAM: Help not guaranteed for homeowners who lost money to home improvement scam

Help not guaranteed for carpentry scam victims
Published: Jun. 6, 2023 at 5:46 PM EDT
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(WFSB) - The I-Team has talked to more people who say a Manchester home improvement company took their money but never completed the work.

The I-Team first told you about the company in May.

Both the husband and wife are facing felony larceny charges, but the I-Team has learned the state is still deciding if any of the impacted homeowners will be eligible for the Home Improvement Guaranty fund.

Registered contractors in Connecticut are required to pay into the fund. If something goes wrong, homeowners are eligible for up to $25,000 from the fund to recoup what they lost.

One of the homeowners waiting to see if he’s eligible for that fund is Fred Lehmann.

He showed us the cracks that still need to be repaired in his driveway.

“We have to have this whole thing taken out and redone,” said Lehmann

In the fall of 2021, Lehmann hired Jason Lapointe, working under the company name ‘Carpentry by Jay’ to make his one car garage a two car garage.

“He got paid for about 80% of the contract, and he probably completed about 30% maybe,” said Lehmann.

Lehmann says he stopped hearing from Lapointe in the spring of 2021 when the job was only partially finished.

Lehmann ended up paying someone else to come and finish the job.

“A lot of things ended up costing us double or triple or even quadruple for certain things to get done,” said Lehmann.

In total, Lehmann says Lapointe owes him $30,500.

A judge agreed. Lehmann won a civil suit against Lapointe. Lapointe did not show up to the hearing, and the judge awarded a $30,500 judgment in Lehmann’s favor. However, Lehmann isn’t expecting to see that money anytime soon.

“The last thing the judge said during the damages hearing was ‘Welcome to the world of post-judgment collections. Good luck,” said Lehmann.

An I-Team investigation discovered there are 6 complaints with the Department of Consumer Protection against “Carpentry by Jay”.

Jason and his wife Kathleen Lapointe are facing criminal charges in several towns.

In Coventry, both Jason and Kathleen are charged with second degree larceny, a felony. Jason Lapointe is also charged with a making or offering home improvements without a current certificate of registration in the case. The arrest warrants say the couple cashed a check for more than $18,000 from a woman with the promise of replacing all of her windows, but the windows were never ordered.

In Vernon, Jason Lapointe is charged with a separate count of second degree larceny. In that case, court records say Lapointe took $8,000 from a woman to repair her roof, but he never started the work.

In Manchester, Kathleen Lapointe is charged with employing an unregistered salesman to act on her behalf and failing to refund payment for home improvement within 10 days of a written request. Both of those charges are misdemeanors. In that case, the arrest warrant says a man paid ‘Carpentry by Jay’ $11,400 to complete a number of projects, but the work never started.

As all of those cases work their way through court, Lehmann is now waiting to see if he’ll get money back from Connecticut’s Home Improvement Guaranty Fund.

To be eligible for the fund, the contract must have been for more than $200 of work on a residential property, you need to sue the business and get a judgment in your favor, and the contractor you hired must be registered with the state at the time you signed your contract, within 2 years before you signed, or at the time of your court judgment.

It’s that last requirement that makes the ‘Carpentry by Jay’ case complicated.

While the business itself was registered, Jason Lapointe himself was not registered with the state when he was working on Lehmann’s garage.

Lehmann’s contract was signed by Jason Lapointe. The work was done by Jason Lapointe, but ‘Carpentry by Jay’s’ registration was under Jason’s wife’s name, Kathleen.

“I thought they were going after like women and minority-owned business contracts, I just figured that’s why it was in her name, not his,” said Lehmann.

Court records obtained by the I-Team reveal the real reason.

Jason Lapointe was registered with the state back in 2002, and there was a case where $14,099.75 was paid out from the home guaranty fund to a customer based on his work.

Lapointe would have to first pay that money back if he wanted to apply for a registration and legally work as a contractor again.

You can’t legally work under your wife’s registration.

“The person that’s doing the work needs to be registered with the Department of Consumer Protection,” said Kaitlyn Krasselt.

Krasselt is the communications director for the Department of Consumer Protection. Because DCP is still looking into the ‘Carpentry by Jay’ cases, she could not comment specifically other than to acknowledge they are looking into the complaints. Krasselt did sit down with us to help explain how the home guaranty fund works.

“Be aware of the work that you are asking to have done, make sure that your contractor is properly registered, and get everything in writing and sign a contract,” said Krasselt. “We want consumers to come away from the experience pleased with the outcome,”

Lehmann is still waiting to hear if the state will consider him eligible since Jason Lapointe himself wasn’t registered, but ‘Carpentry by Jay’ was.

“It’s a little too complex and cumbersome for I think the average person to go through that process. You really have to know somebody, and I was fortunate to know a lawyer who helped me through the process,” said Lehmann.

Krasselt says this is a good example of why you want to do your best to avoid this situation altogether, and that starts with more research before you ever sign a contract.

Krasselt says they are working to make the application process simpler.

“We actually in the last year rolled out online applications which actually is a lot easier for consumers,” said Krasselt.

Jason Lapointe is due back in court on both larceny charges on June 7th.