By Mike LaBella
---- — GROVELAND — Police said a contractor managed to defraud customers, suppliers and others for years by using a variety of business aliases and at least 19 different addresses.
“He was changing names, which was part of the scam, so it was hard to track him down,” police Deputy Chief Jeffrey Gillen said of James McCarthy, 52.
McCarthy faces a variety of charges, including writing bad checks, using a customer’s credit card without permission, taking payment from customers but not finishing the work, and not paying his workers or paying them with checks that bounced.
Police said McCarthy was using a home at 173 Seven Star Road owned by his girlfriend as the base of operations for his home improvement business for several years, and that he has a history with police in the town.
Police said they have been called to the home several times, including on one occasion when some of McCarthy’s former employees were on the property trying to collect wages due them. The workers told police that McCarthy constantly lied to them and that he failed to show up to pay them.
“Imagine working for him, doing a good job and not being paid?” Gillen said. “You have people who took out loans to have work on their home and he took their money and didn’t complete the work. He took advantage of people’s trust.”
When contacted by The Eagle-Tribune, McCarthy’s lawyer Scott Gleason of Haverhill said he had no comment.
Police said McCarthy’s local victims include Kazmiera Marina in Haverhill, where he has an unpaid balance of $2,661 for boat storage and repairs, and Doyle Lumber in Andover, to which he owes more than $40,000.
“Witnesses I interviewed said he came across as the nicest guy and was a smooth talker who would tell a story about his daughter having died,” police Detective James Morton said. “He preyed on citizens to get what he needed to get or do.”
According to the Essex District Attorney’s Office, McCarthy was charged with 21 counts of home improvement contractor violation, 26 counts of identity fraud, 26 counts of uttering a false check, 37 counts of larceny over $250 by false pretenses and driving with a suspended license.
At his arraignment on July 15 in Haverhill District Court, McCarthy pleaded not guilty to the charges. The District Attorney’s Office requested he be held on $100,000 cash bail, but a judge reduced that to $10,000 cash and issued McCarthy a 60-day warning, meaning if he gets into trouble with the law while his case is pending he could be held up to 60 days without bail. He must appear Aug. 1 for a probable cause hearing.
Maurice Pratt, director of communications for the Essex County Sheriff’s Department, said that as of July 24, McCarthy had not posted bail and was still being held at the Middleton House of Correction.
Police said they arrested McCarthy on July 14, after he was allegedly driving with a suspended license in the street in front of 173 Seven Star Road. Police said Morton had obtained a warrant for McCarthy’s arrest following a investigation into his business practices and was looking for McCarthy when he saw him pull out of the driveway and onto the street.
According to Morton’s report, McCarthy was driving a green Toyota van and, when he was stopped, he got out and tried to enter his home to avoid Morton. When Morton confronted him, McCarthy said he was simply driving to the mail box at the end of his driveway, the report said. It said McCarthy has an extensive criminal driving history, including being charged 10 times for operating after revocation/suspension of his license.
Gillen said the case against McCarthy is “massive” and involves many victims whom he allegedly scammed using various methods.
Morton investigated McCarthy since last October when he first began receiving complaints about him from several victims, police said. The complaints included larceny by check, larceny by false pretense, using a credit card without permission, non-payment of wages, work not completed after receiving payment and non-payment of building materials he had delivered to his home.
Morton stated in his report that one of McCarthy’s alleged victims, Doyle Lumber of Andover, delivered thousands of dollars in building materials to McCarthy without being paid. The owner of the business told police he had known McCarthy for years and that one day McCarthy came to him to say he’d changed his ways and guaranteed that all transactions would be paid in full.
The owner told Morton that he was reluctant to sell to McCarthy because he had an unpaid balance with the company, but that he felt compassion and empathy for McCarthy after he told a story that his daughter had died. The business arrangement went bad almost immediately, with McCarthy accumulating an unpaid balance of $41,810 while making constant promises to pay, Morton said in his report.
A Winchester man told Morton that in January 2012, he was introduced to McCarthy by another contractor and hired him to do work on his modular home at a price of $129,000. The man said McCarthy asked him to pay in advance to keep the project moving along. But after the man left for a trip to Asia that April, he learned that work on his home had stalled, police said.
Morton stated in his report that the victim contacted McCarthy in May of that year and McCarthy proposed doing additional work, including building a deck and siding the house, and that he needed the man’s credit card number to charge materials. The man agreed and it wasn’t long before his credit card company notified him of unusual charges, including auto repairs and building supplies that were delivered to 173 Seven Star Road, the report said. The man told Morton that McCarthy had charged $25,464 at building supply businesses in Andover, Peabody, Woburn, Bedford and Greenland, N.H. The man told police he demanded repayment of the money, and McCarthy sent him a check for $15,790 that bounced.
Morton stated in his report that McCarthy has a lengthy criminal history which includes forgery, uttering, larceny by check, larceny by false pretense and identity fraud. Morton noted he had documentation indicating McCarthy has seven liens and nine judgments against him. Morton also stated that McCarthy operated under 11 different business names and used at least 19 different addresses, including a gas station at 301 Main St. in Groveland that was no longer in operation, and a Post Office box he’d opened a checking account under.
“Detective Morton did an unbelievable job putting in a lot of time and effort,” Gillen said about the investigation. “The victims are so relieved that somebody is finally working with them and taking such an effort in listening to them.”
Gillen said the case is still under investigation and that as word gets out, other law enforcement agencies are getting involved, including the Attorney General’s office.
“There are more charges pending that the detective is working on,” Gillen said. “There’s a huge history to this and the case is very complicated and involved.”