Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Lower Makefield contractor guilty of ripping off homeowners
Posted: Friday, December 12, 2014
A Bucks County jury Friday found a Lower Makefield contractor guilty of bilking 14 homeowners out of more than $2.5 million in one of the largest home improvement-related fraud cases in recent memory.
The jury of four men and eight women deliberated for roughly eight hours over two days before finding John Succi, 59, guilty on all 27 felony counts, including home improvement fraud, theft by deception and deceptive business practices.
Bucks County Judge Diane Gibbons deferred sentencing for Succi, but immediately revoked his bail. Succi, who had been free after posting 10 percent of $100,000, was handcuffed and taken into custody.
In revoking his bail, Gibbons noted that Succi — who had appeared late several times during his weeklong trial — faced an “extensive and lengthy” state prison sentence.
She added that Succi’s victims — some who claimed that he had ripped them off as far back as 2005 — have waited long enough for an ending to the case. One pair of victims was a couple over the age of 60, which enhances the criminal penalties.
“They will wait no longer for justice,” Gibbons said, adding the 13-page verdict sheet was the longest she had prepared in her career.
Each “guilty” verdict brought more and more tears to Warminster resident Jeff Goldstein, who was among the more than a dozen victims in the audience Friday.
“What I had to deal with, I’m so relieved at this point,” said Goldstein, who hired Succi in 2005 for a home renovation project and helped investigators build their case. “I’m happy that is what brought tears to my eyes — that relief.”
For nearly a decade, authorities said Succi signed contracts to build additions, renovate homes and construct a few new buildings. But several homeowners testified during the trial that they ended up paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to Succi, who delivered nothing but empty promises and shells of buildings. Between the money paid to Succi and the cost of fixing his shoddy work, those victims are out about $2.5 million, authorities said.
After signing contracts in many of the cases, Succi would call back — sometimes within a week — and start asking for more money, according to testimony. The homeowners said they would repeatedly give in to his requests until they either stopped paying or contacted a lawyer. If they stopped paying, Succi contacted a lawyer, according to court records. And when things went badly for Succi financially, he would file for bankruptcy, according to police.
He also changed the name of his company several times. Bucks County Detective Eric Landamia, who investigated the case, said Succi had four registered names for his contracting business, but a total of nine different incarnations of the name would show up on the contracts, business cards and letterhead he would use.