|Ryan Thayer (Left) and John Thayer Jr.|
Monday, September 8, 2014
Bristol Twp. contractors face trial on dozens of fraud charges
Posted: Wednesday, September 3, 2014
He promised that her home would be good as new in 60 days.
That was in October 2012 when Sharon Brown said that she signed a contract with John “Jack” Thayer Jr. to rebuild her fire-ravaged home. She paid him a little more than $160,000, more than half the $202,000 estimate he provided.
Nearly two years later, her Bristol Township home is “95 percent” finished, said Brown, 63. But she had to hire another contractor to complete the work that she alleges Thayer and Hammertime Construction didn’t.
The same story — with the same promises — were repeated Wednesday in Falls district court where more than a dozen witnesses took the stand during a preliminary hearing for father and son contractors who are accused of accepting $771,165 for work that was never started or completed.
Authorities allege that John “Jack” Thayer Jr., 60, and his son Ryan, 28, a former Bristol Township Zoning Hearing Board member, took the money from 10 individuals — mostly older homeowners — between March 2011 and April.
Both Thayers face at least two dozen felony charges, most of which were held for trial following a four-hour preliminary hearing before District Judge Jan Vislosky. She held all 36 charges against Ryan Thayer, and held 29 of the 30 charges against his father. Ryan Thayer is free on $25,000 unsecured bail. His father is free on $75,000 unsecured bail.
The Thayers operated Hammertime Construction and Hammertime Demolition and Hauling, both based in Bristol Township.
Until his registration expired May 30, Ryan Thayer was listed as the owner of Hammertime Demolition and Hauling, according to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Home Improvement Contractor website. His dad owned Hammertime Construction Inc., whose registration expired in July 2011, according to the AG website.
Defense attorneys Niels Eriksen Jr. and Michael Parlow, who represented John and Ryan Thayer respectively, appeared to focus much of their cross examination on establishing whether father or son were responsible for fulfilling the contracts, accepting payments, and whether the documents property owners signed were considered contracts.
County detectives launched their investigation into the Thayers earlier this year after the Bucks County Office of Consumer Protection received numerous complaints about their businesses during the past two years.
Prosecutors allege the Thayers targeted adults ages 60 and older. At least half of the alleged victims claimed that Ryan Thayer appeared at their homes the night they were damaged by fires or weather-related issues, offering his services for debris removal and reconstruction.
That is how Sharon Brown — one of 15 witnesses who testified — said that she met Ryan Thayer, who showed up at her Rocky Pool Lane home the April 2012 night of a fire.
Ryan Thayer claimed he knew one of her nephews in high school, and offered to donate a trash bin to her cleanup efforts, according to Brown’s nephew, Wayne Kandravi, who acted as his aunt’s go-between with the Thayers.
Brown testified that it was her understanding that Hammertime Construction would perform the work, noting that was the name on the contract.
After work started in December 2012, Brown said she visited the home daily, but rarely saw any work happening. She met Jack Thayer there once to pick out siding for the home. She never saw Ryan Thayer at the property.
Kandravi testified at first Ryan Thayer would regularly communicate with him, but about two months after work started, the delays started. So did the excuses.
When the HVAC system installation deadline passed, he was told there was a death in the subcontractor’s family. The system was never installed, he added.
In March, Jack Thayer told Kandravi that he would be taking over the project for Ryan. Not long after that, Kandravi said he learned construction materials were being removed from the home. Jack Thayer told him he needed to use the items to finish another renovation project — so he could use the money to finish Brown’s home, Kandravi testified.
By May 2013 all work stopped at the house, Kandravi said.
Brown testified she paid a second contractor another $82,000 to finish her home.
Brown’s story sounded similar to the one that 84-year-old Robert Smedley told. He testified that Ryan Thayer, who lives near his Goldenridge home, showed up the night an electrical fire damaged his home in April 2013.
The younger Thayer offered to board up and secure the home immediately, he said. The next day, Smedley and his daughters met with Ryan and his dad who verbally promised to rebuild the home by October 2013.
Smedley testified the Thayers presented him with what he called a “fuzzy” contract that laid out the work that would be done.
The initial contract didn’t list a payment schedule, testified Peter Miles, Smedley’s son-in-law who acted as his primary contact with the Thayers. A revised document provided the payment breakdown, but no start or completion dates, Miles testified.
The family paid the Thayers a $50,000 down payment for reconstruction, which Miles said was told would take them through the required mechanical inspections. The payment represented about one-third of the $157,531 estimate to rebuild. The Smedleys also paid $10,167 to cover the emergency boarding up of the house and the demolition of the burned portion of the home.
The reconstruction work started in late June 2013, but it didn’t last long, Miles said.
After all work stopped in August, the family sent two dozen calls, text messages and emails to Ryan Thayer but got no response, Miles said. When he finally spoke with Jack Thayer, he told Miles he didn’t know when work would resume.
Eventually, the Smedleys brought in a second contractor who finished the reconstruction earlier this year. That contractor learned that the Thayers never secured the proper permits for the work.
They weren’t the only ones either, according to Bristol Township department of licenses and inspection officials.
The office did not issue any building or demolition permits to the Thayers or Hammertime Demolition and Hauling for three other projects between 2011 and 2012, office manager Nicole Szogi testified.
Ryan Thayer applied for demolition permit for one of the jobs, but he never paid for it, so it was not issued, she added. He applied for a building permit, but it was denied because he didn’t apply for other related permits which would be issued at the same time, Szogi said.
Without the required township permits, construction work cannot start, testified Glenn Kucher, the township’s director of building and planning development.
Kucher also testified that Jack Thayer — not Ryan — was the one who mostly applied for permits in his office.
But attorney Eriksen asked Kucher if the older Thayer could have been dropping off applications for his son.
“Could be,” Kucher replied.
Jo Ciavaglia: 215-949-4181; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @jociavaglia