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Fleetwood man twice a victim of home improvement fraud, police say

Published On: Jul 02 2013 09:33:51 AM CDT
Updated On: Jul 02 2013 05:19:41 PM CDT

A pair of contractors are being sought for separately taking advantage of a Berks County homeowner, police said.

FLEETWOOD, Pa. -

A pair of contractors are being sought for ripping off a Berks County homeowner on two separate occasions, police said Tuesday.

Jerry Allen and Mark Kowalski promised to complete home improvement projects at a man's home in Fleetwood. Instead, police said they ran off with his hard-earned cash.

The first case of alleged home improvement fraud happened in March when Jerry Allen, of Interior Motives Renovations, was contracted for $5,800 to build a sun room behind a Fleetwood man's home, police said.

Allen, 41, of Easton, accepted a down payment of $2,800 and began the demolition phase of the project, during which time he damaged the home's siding, police said. Allen subsequently requested another check for $1,000 to cover the cost of materials and attempted to change the specifications of the contracted work, advising the homeowner that he'd refund his money if he didn't like it, police said.

The homeowner then stopped payment on the $1,000 check and tried to contact Allen for a refund of the down payment before contacting police, but he was unsuccessful, police said.

"He ended up trying to contact the contractor several times. Eventually, it seems as though his calls were being avoided," said Chief Steven Stinsky, Fleetwood Police Dept.

In April, it was a different contractor, but the same story. The same man hired Mark Kowalski, of Kowalski Contruction, to build a deck for $3,400 behind his house. Kowalski, 31, of Fleetwood, never started the work, offered several excuses and unfulfilled promises, the homeowner told police.

Chief Stinsky sent a letter to both contractors and told them they need to refund the contractor's money. When he never received a response, both Kowalski and Allen were charged with theft and felony violations of the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act. Warrants have been issued for their arrests, police said.

"These people took money and did not do the job. The amounts involved in each of these instances are in excess of $2,000, and amounts over $2,000 result in a felony charge, under the act," said Stinsky.

Bud Morris, who lives near the victim, does most of his home improvements himself, but if not, he hires someone he trusts.

"I just hope I'm not one of the victims like they are," said Morris. "It doesn't surprise me. Stuff like this is hitting closer to home all the time."

Before anyone hires a contractor, police said check with the Better Business Bureau and make sure to get everything outlined in your contract in writing.

Anyone with information about the case or the suspects' whereabouts is asked to call Crime Alert Berks County at 877-373-9913. A cash reward of up to $5,000 is being offered for information that leads to an arrest. Calls can also be made to the Fleetwood Police Department at 610-944-7011.