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VT Contractor Charged in Fraud

Thursday, April 11, 2013

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A Vermont contractor hired to perform asbestos removal, insulation and other home-improvement work has been charged with pocketing more than $60,000 without completing the job.

Lee D. Dufresne, 42, of Yankee Ridge Builders based in Bennington, VT, pleaded not guilty Monday (April 8) to home-improvement fraud in Vermont Superior Court Criminal Division in Bennington County.

Victorian Home
Mfwills / Wikimedia Commons

A Bennington, VT, contractor has been charged with home-improvement fraud for not completing restoration work on a 120-year-old Victorian-style home. Note: The Victorian home shown above is not the one involved in this case.

The defendant faces a maximum penalty of three years in jail and/or a $5,000 fine if found guilty of home-improvement fraud, according to court documents.

An Agreement for Work

Homeowner Joanne Hendee, of Bennington, said she first entered into an agreement with Dufresne and his company to work on her house in 2005, according to an affidavit by Bennington County Police Detective Sgt. David S. Rowland. Hendee told police that she had met Dufresne when he was renting an apartment from her family.

The project entailed a variety of home improvements: metal work, re-roof, custom siding, asbestos removal and disposal, repair or replace cupolas, demolish and restore an adjacent barn, complete vinyl window package, and blown insulation in the home, the case documents said.

The quoted price for the original work was $49,880, the documents said. Hendee allegedly paid the contractor $49,500 in 2006 and an additional $11,500 in 2007.

asbestos removal
Oregon Department of Transportation

The contractor agreed to perform asbestos removal as part of the project, according to documents in the case.

The homeowner also said Dufresne had signed other documents detailing additional home-improvement tasks in August 2010.

However, Dufresne was accused of skipping out on the agreed-upon work except for the cupolas—which were only half done, Hendee said.

Excuses Given

As part of her statement to police and to the court, Hendee listed numerous dates in 2009 when she contacted Dufresne and was given a promise or a reason he could not perform the work.

Dufresne allegedly told Hendee that he couldn't do work because of weather concerns, other more pressing jobs, or problems with his employees, among other reasons.

In her statement, Hendee wrote, in part: “Now stands a once beautiful Victorian home looking like a farmhouse not at all like the 120 year old diamond that she was. It got carved up by Mr. Dufresne of which he collected the money and never finished the job.”

Rowland said he had spoken to two other customers of Yankee Ridge Builders who had had "negative comments" about the work.

On March 12, the defendant came to the police department where he was issued a citation for the offense.

Bennington County Deputy State's Attorney Alexander Burke said he could not comment on the pending case against Dufresne.

A woman who answered a telephone call to the number listed for the company said that the wrong number had been reached.

Offender Registry

Home-improvement problems are among the top 10 complaint categories in Vermont and throughout the country, according to a statement by Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell.

Vermont maintains a state registry of all persons who have been criminally convicted or resolved civil claims by the State of Vermont for committing home improvement fraud.


Tagged categories: Asbestos; Contractors; Criminal acts; Insulation; Maintenance + Renovation; Rehabilitation/Repair; Renovation; Residential Construction; Restoration

Comment from Richard Atkins, (4/11/2013, 11:28 AM)

Contractors must be careful not to take on projects that they cannot do. This is a good way to get in lots of trouble. I do not take money from a client until the work is completed. I guess that I am just "Old School".

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