VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A man was sentenced to five years in prison Thursday for committing construction fraud against a 92-year-old World War II veteran.
Sixty-one-year-old Francisco Gomez, of Moyock, North Carolina, pleaded guilty to construction fraud in May. His sentence is above the Virginia state sentencing guidelines, which recommend he serve no more than three years.
Prosecutors say on June 13, 2016, the victim entered into a signed contract with Gomez to remove and replace a roof. The total cost of the job was $11,000. The victim gave Gomez a check for $7,000 to start the roof job. The agreement stated that the remaining $4,000 would be paid after the job was done.
According to prosecutors, Gomez cashed the check that same day, but didn’t start the work. Weeks went by, and the victim called Gomez several times about the job. Each time, Gomez had an excuse.
After three months, the victim contacted police. The man was told to mail a certified letter requesting the return of the $7,000. He did, but Gomez never tried to return the money and never did any work on the roof.
Prosecutors say Gomez has an extensive record dating back to 1995 and has a history of committing these types of crimes against the elderly. His prior record includes seven counts of obtaining property by false pretenses, two counts of contempt, operating without business license, conducting without a business license and two counts of obtaining money through mental incapacity.
The Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office has advice to avoid becoming a victim of construction fraud:
- Never pay the full price of a job before it’s done; pay in increments as work is completed.
- If you pay in advance for the contractor to purchase materials, make sure they arrive at your home along with invoices indicating what was bought and paid.
- Pay with a personal check or credit card, which can be tracked more easily than cash.
- Don’t do business with contractors who knock on your door. Find listed, licensed and insured local construction companies.
- Get at least three written estimates.