A group of victims fought for years to get a criminal contractor behind bars. FOX43 Finds Out why it’s so easy for scammers to get away with these crimes.
YORK COUNTY, Pa. — When you hire someone to do work around your house, you expect that work to be done within a reasonable time.
That’s not what happened for a group of people in York County.
They hired Scott Kleiman. He owned Quality Exterior and Remodeling. Many of his victims found him on social media.
One victim, Vic Orendorff said, “The work was deplorable at best.”
What they didn’t know, is that Kleiman’s had quite a rap sheet. Pages and pages of different criminal charges and civil lawsuits against him as a contractor.
“It was a disaster, everything he said wasn’t truthful,” said Orendorff.
Another Victim, Herb Nix wanted some work done on a farmette in York County. He said, “I wrote him a check for $500 and never saw him again.”
Nix says the contractor started giving every excuse in the book.
“It was 40 plus times he was supposed to be there, made an excuse, and didn’t show up,” Nix says. “I contacted the police department right away and I said what do I do? And they said you can file a complaint, but because he had dropped off a couple of supplies and did some very very minimal work, they said it’s going to be civil.”
Nix did file a civil case. Orendorff started the process too. He just needed some work done on a roof and paid a $7,000 dollar deposit to Kleiman.
Orendorff said, “He initially installed the roof. The roof leaked like a sieve after installing the roof.”
The power of social media
The pair, who didn’t know each other beforehand, started posting on social media about their experiences and other people said the same thing happened to them.
“The stories were surprisingly similar and that’s when we started really saying hey we got to do something,” said Nix.
They started a Facebook group for victims of Scott Kleiman.
Orendorff said, “It was amazing how many responses I received through the community, of other concerned people who were ripped off by this same gentlemen. We all united as one and went after him.”
York County Detective Jeff Snell took on the case. He said, “We saw a pattern, a course of conduct on Mr. Kleiman’s part to intentionally defraud these victims.”
Typically, if a contractor comes, does some work, and doesn’t finish it becomes a civil case, but this case showed a pattern of it happening again, and again, and again with plenty of documentation. That’s why the York County DA’s office was able to file criminal charges. Although Snell says this was a long and difficult case, it was the documentation and the sheer number of complaints made that brought it to trial. He said, “This is one group of tenacious victims, that’s the way I would describe them.”
“Registering with the state’ isn’t always a stamp of approval
Plenty of the victims thought Kleiman was a good choice because he showed he was a registered home improvement contractor with the state.
In Pennsylvania, contractors register with the state Attorney General`s office.
They fill out an application, pay $50, and get a contractor number.
“People don’t know who they’re actually dealing with. They think, ‘he’s licensed by the state, he must be legitimate, he’s not going to take advantage of us.’ And that’s far from the contrary,” said Snell.
Contractors are supposed to disclose if they have ever been convicted or plead guilty to a crime related to a home improvement transaction. Although, it’s not that hard to fib.
The detective said, “They put the business under a girlfriend’s name or they put the business under a wife’s name and they don’t have anything to do with the business.”
The victims think Kleiman likely fibbed on his registration and they want harsher laws in PA to prevent crimes like this in the future. Stricter legislation has been introduced but has gone nowhere in the state.
Kleiman is now behind bars. He pleaded guilty to Deceptive Business Practices for scamming people like Nix and Orendorff out of a total of 50-thousand dollars $50,000. Now the victims want to make sure no one else goes through the same thing.
Simple steps to take before you hire a contractor
1. Look up their criminal record here. You can search for a case using a contractor’s name. Select “participant name” and add their first name, last name, and county. You can check to see if there are any open cases against the contractor you’re looking to hire. This is the state website and it is free.
2. Better Business Bureau: Business owners have to take steps to be BBB accredited. Plus, people can leave honest reviews that won’t be manipulated or deleted.
3. Check your local builder’s associations: most companies have to be in good standing in order to appear on lists that are regularly updated. Here’s the York Builders Association as an example.
Of course, nothing is foolproof, but the above steps will likely weed out repeat offenders.