Stories written by Jo Ciavaglia, award-winning multimedia newspaper reporter at the Bucks County Courier Times in Bucks County, a suburb of Philadelphia, Pa.
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Monday, July 14, 2014
Second arrest in $770K Bristol Twp. contractor fraud case
Posted: Friday, July 11, 2014
The second half of a Bristol Township father and son construction demolition business accused of ripping off eight homeowners and two businesses of more than $700,000 turned himself into police as expected Friday.
Ryan Thayer, 28, a former Bristol Township zoning board member, was arraigned before Middletown District Judge John Kelly Jr. on multiple counts of receiving advanced payments for services and failure to perform, theft and deceitful business practices. He was released on $25,000 unsecured bail.
His father, John “Jack” Thayer Jr., 60, was arraigned Thursday on identical charges and released on $75,000 unsecured bail.
The father and son operate Hammer Time Construction and Hammertime Demolition and Hauling, on Icepond Road. They accepted at least $771,165 for work that was never completed between March 2011 and April 2014 in Bensalem, Bristol Township, Falls and Lower Southampton, according to a probable cause affidavit.
The younger Thayer was registered as the owner of Hammertime Demolition and Hauling, according to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Home Improvement Contractor registration records. His registration was listed as beginning in April 2010 and expiring May 30. Thayer is also awaiting a preliminary hearing at a Falls district court for allegedly writing a bad check for nearly $3,000 to a concrete company earlier this year.
Hammertime Construction Inc. was also registered with the state, but that registration expired in July 2011 and has not been renewed, according to the AG website.
County detectives launched their investigation into the father-son team earlier this year after the Bucks County Office of Consumer Protection received numerous complaints about the Thayers during the last two years.
At least half of the alleged victims say in court papers that Ryan Thayer showed up on the same night that homes were damaged or destroyed by fires or weather-related issues, offering his services for debris removal and reconstruction.
That is how Robert and Sara Smedley ended up hiring the Thayers after an electrical fire destroyed their home in the Goldenridge section of Bristol Township in April 2013. The night of the fire Ryan Thayer — who lives around the corner — showed up and offered to board up the home, as required by the fire marshal.
The next day the Smedleys, who are both 84, and their adult children met with Ryan and Jack Jr., who promised to rebuild the home by October 2013.
“They were very convincing and comforting at a time we felt very vulnerable due to my parents losing everything,” said Robin McNaughton, the Smedleys’ daughter.
The estimated cost of the rebuild was $157,531 and Hammertime had been paid $60,167 before work stopped last August and the Thayers removed their equipment from the property, according to the district attorney’s office.
Family members’ attempts to contact the Thayers were mostly unsuccessful, authorities said.
“We kept giving them the benefit of the doubt, you want to believe,” McNaughton said.
John "Jack" Thayer Jr.
The family finally met with the Thayers last October and they assured the family that work would restart in November and they would provide an accurate accounting of the project costs to date, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
Neither happened, authorities say.
The family had to hire another contractor, who learned the Thayers had never applied for the proper permits for the work, authorities said.
Her parents moved back into their remodeled home earlier this month, McNaughton said. Her father wanted to sell the house and move to an assisted living center, but he can’t afford to. She estimates her parents have spent $35,000 out of pocket on the reconstruction.
“These are people on fixed incomes,” McNaughton said, adding “I feel (the Thayers) need to pay dearly.”