Contractors charged in $1 million fraud scheme

ALBANY – A contractor with a three-decade history of defrauding dozens of homeowners has been charged, along with his business partner and a housing consultant, for allegedly taking part in $1 million scheme against homeowners across the state.

The state Attorney General’s office said a joint investigation with the State Police resulted in a grand jury handing up a 17-count indictment against Robert Decker, 66, Scott Driscoll, 44 and Robert Langlais, 67, for their alleged roles in the fraud.

Attorney General Letitia James said many of the homeowners involved had invested their life savings in upgrading their homes.

“We won’t allow anyone to take advantage of and steal from innocent New Yorkers trying to build better lives for themselves,” she said in a statement.

The probe was prompted by dozens of complaints to the state Attorney General’s Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau about SJR Enterprises, a Waterford-based home improvement contracting company run by Decker and Driscoll, dating back to at least May 2018.

A review of the SJR Enterprises’ Better Business Bureau page and other online reviews show the complaints go even further back, with customers repeatedly complaining about work not being done or not being up to code. Many of the complaints state that they never heard from anyone at SJR Enterprises after writing a large deposit check or being talked in to paying the full amount to get the project started.

According to the indictment, Decker, 66, also known as Bob Dale, and Driscoll, defrauded home and business owners by taking money for improvement projects and using it for themselves, including nearly $400,000 in cash. They also used roughly $150,000 to pay off their debts and ordered over $50,000 in items through iTunes, Amazon and at various restaurants.

The indictment lays out several cases where homeowners spent months trying to dig themselves out of the mess or were left with homes they couldn’t live in. One victim paid over $25,000 to have plumbing and electrical work done on her Albany brownstone but the work wasn’t done, leaving her without utilities throughout the entire winter of 2019.

Another homeowner received an $89,000 federal housing loan to fund their renovations. Decker and Driscoll allegedly spent $25,000 on building materials and then spent the rest on themselves.

Under the federal loan program the homeowner used, the work must be approved by a certified consultant. The homeowner hired Robert Langlais, 67, who allegedly signed off on roof work that wasn’t done, improperly installed windows, a broken furnace and over $5,000 in clean-up costs that weren’t done.

This is not the first time Decker has been accused of ripping off homeowners. Records show the state has accused him of similar schemes dating back to at least 1993. In that case, he was on probation for a fraud scheme and served 19 months in state prison after being convicted of grand larceny for the 1993 incident.

In 2003, the state Attorney General’s office received a consent order that banned Decker from working as a home improvement contractor in the state unless he filed a $100,000 performance bond after more than 30 homeowners filed complaints of work not being done. That bond was never filed. In 2005, he was sentenced to six months in Albany County jail for violating the consent order. In 2014, he served nearly three years in state prison for again ripping homeowners who hired him for roof work.

On Monday, Decker and Driscoll were both charged with 13 counts of grand larceny and one count of scheme to defraud, all felonies. Langlais was charged with one count each of grand larceny and scheme to defraud. Driscoll and Langlais were also both charged with three counts of falsifying business records.

Driscoll and Langlais were released on their own recognizance. Decker was released with electronic monitoring, according to court documents.

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