A Montgomery County man will face trial in Schuylkill County court after allegedly defrauding several local homeowners following last May's destructive hail storm.
Jonathan Paul Williams, 27, of 41 Wexford Dr., North Wales, was in the court of District Judge Stephen Bayer, Tamaqua, on Tuesday for a preliminary hearing on charges of forgery, theft by deception, receiving stolen property, securing execution of documents by deception and falsely impersonating a privately employed person. Williams elected to have the hearing rather than waiving the charges to county court, placing him in the position of having to face his alleged victims en masse as he left district court.
Most of the victims were not called on to testify as Williams' defense lawyer, attorney Chris Reidlinger, agreed to stipulate there were multiple alleged victims. This left many of them angry as they all wanted to have their sides of the story told to the judge.
First to take the stand was Michael Miller of Lafayette Hills, co-owner of Freedom Remodelers Inc. According to Miller's testimony, Williams had been employed by his company, as an independent subcontractor, from April 26 to June 2, 2011. During that period, Williams pursued several leads for the company, resulting in three remodeling jobs for Freedom Remodelers Inc. In each case, the company sent one Raymond Fasy to the individual homes to take measurements and complete an appraisal. A contract would then be executed between the homeowner, Miller as owner of FRI, and Williams as the salesperson.
All of those jobs were done in the Montgomery County area. Miller noted that Williams had suggested the company seek work in the Schuylkill County area following May's hail storm, but the company declined. Miller said the distance from the company headquarters to the local area would make it difficult to provide the quality of service offered by FRI and it wouldn't be financially feasible.
In November, Miller learned that Williams had been executing FRI contracts locally, presenting himself as an owner of the company. Miller then contacted Tamaqua Police Criminal Investigator Henry Woods. Following an investigation, Woods learned that Williams had signed such contracts with residents of Tamaqua, Hometown and Barnesville. After consulting with Schuylkill County District Attorney Karen Byrnes Noon, it was decided to combine the prosecution of the cases.
Schuylkill County Assistant D.A. Jim Crossin called two of the alleged victims to the stand, John "Jack" O'Connor and Charles Raymond Zellner.
O'Connor testified that Williams had approached him concerning hail damage to the roof and first floor aluminum siding at his Lorraine Street (Hometown) home. O'Connor identified Williams in court as "the guy who tried to rip me off." Williams at first represented himself as an employee of Allied Contracting, but later offered an FRI contract. O'Connor questioned the change, but was told Williams was with a new company. The contract was signed and Williams was given a check for a $1,400 down payment. Later that day, O'Connor stopped payment on the check after having second thoughts.
At this point in the hearing, attorney Reidlinger stipulated to the testimony of four of the alleged victims, Kathryn Kunkel, Gus Schlorf, Frank Lehatto and Tina Radocha, agreeing their testimony would be basically the same as O'Connors, as each had FRI contracts signed by Williams. In the other cases though, each had provided the defendant with a down payment but did not have the work done as agreed upon.
Zellner was then called to the stand. While he didn't have a written contract, the elderly gentleman said he entered into a verbal agreement with Williams to repair roof damage from the hail storm. Williams was given two checks, one for $3,391.47 and one for $1,200 with the work set to begin on Dec. 15. That date came and went without any more contact from Williams, according to Zellner.
Reidlinger then asked Judge Bayer to dismiss the four counts of falsely impersonating a privately employed person, as Williams was never an employee of Freedom Remodelers Inc., but was an independent subcontractor. The judge agreed, but bound over all of the other charges for trial.
Williams remains free on $25,000 percentage bail.