Trustee Watson Charged with Contractor Fraud

From the DA

Village of Haverstraw Trustee Thomas Watson, 39, of 99 Maple Avenue, Haverstraw, New York has been charged with one count of grand larceny in the third degree, a class “D” felony, pertaining to an alleged act of contractor’s fraud. Watson also goes by the name Terence Watson.

Watson, a licensed home improvement contractor who conducts his business under the name Watson Contracting and Home Improvement, is alleged to have stolen over $10,000 from a Clarkstown homeowner with whom he had contracted to perform renovations.

According to the charges, the victims ‐ a young, married couple ‐ contracted with the defendant after securing a government‐backed loan for the purchase of the home in New City. The loan was contingent upon completion of certain repairs to the property.

The victims paid Watson $14,000 ‐ one‐half of the total cost ‐ in June, 2012, with the balance due by the completion of job, which was promised by late August.

It is alleged that the defendant started the remodeling work in September, well behind schedule, while only making irregular appearances at the home.

By October, 2012, Watson allegedly walked away from the job. All attempts by the victims to have money refunded and to procure an accounting of what renovations were completed were allegedly ignored by the defendant.

Watson is accused of abandoning the project and failing to provide an accounting or return of the victim’s money.

The arrest of the defendant resulted from an investigation conducted by the Rockland County Special Investigations Unit and the Rockland County Department of Consumer Protection.

In 2012 the Rockland County Times investigated a similar allegation against Watson. The trustee had been stalling on a project he was paid to undertake on Maple Avenue  according to the Glass family, whom contracted him.

Only when Watson learned a feature on the situation was about to run in the newspaper did he take action. He blamed the homeowner for the delay, claiming she had not filed needed paperwork.

Watson is on the top right
Watson is on the top right

The defendant will be prosecuted for grand larceny through application of the New York State Lien Law, which mandates that, upon acceptance of funds in connection with a contract for improvement of real property or home improvement, those funds become a trust, which can be used only to pay for costs incurred in the performance of that homeowner’s project. The use of that money for any other purpose is a larceny under the Lien Law. Further, the contractor must maintain separate ledgers for each job for which he has contracted.

By failing to provide an accounting of how the money had been used and by not returning the money upon the demand of the consumer, the contractor is accused of violating both the Penal Law and the Lien Law.

The defendant was arraigned today in the Clarkstown Justice Court before the Honorable Howard Gerber and released on his own recognizance.

Watson is due to return to court on May 29, 2013. If convicted, the he faces a possible state prison sentence of up to seven years.

Supervising Senior Assistant District Attorney Anthony Dellicarri is prosecuting the case.