Malden couple lost thousands to home improvement scam – NBC Boston

Home Improvement

Massachusetts police departments are warning consumers about shady home improvement contractors taking advantage of customers and taking off with thousands of dollars.

“They did all of this in a day,” said Lydia Cox, pointing to a large trench dug in front of her home in Malden.

The masons Dan and Lydia Cox hired were only supposed to replace the stairs, but they ended up causing $50,000 in damage to their foundation.

“When we looked back there were red flags and should have been obvious,” said Daniel.

The couple found Greater Boston Masonry and Construction on Google.

Their website looks really great. “All their reviews were really great,” said Lydia.

So Lydia called and Joseph Connors was on the other line. When Connors showed up the next day he parked his work truck around the corner out of sight from their home. He quoted the stair demo and replacement for $13,000 and the Coxes paid $6,000 upfront. When workers came down the stairs a few days later, Connors called Lydia to come outside in a panic.

“He kept pulling me outside and showing me all this damage with our foundation and that our foundation was basically falling apart,” said Lydia. “You could see that there were stones falling from our foundation. And if you know nothing about foundations, that can be very scary.”

Connors quoted the cost of the foundation repair at $100,000. Daniel felt something was off and called an independent structural engineer to get a second opinion. That’s when things started to unravel.

So what these guys had done was dig underneath those loose stones. And then, of course, they fell out. “There’s nothing to hold them in,” said Daniel.

They convinced Connors to come back to finish the project, but this time Malden police were waiting for him.

The guy had a warrant out for his arrest. The license plate on the truck was revoked. The registration on the truck didn’t exist. The license plate on the trailer went to somebody else. None of the things that they had were real,” said Daniel.

The warrant was for failure to appear for driving an unregistered vehicle charge in Billerica. He was transported to Lowell District Court where that case was dismissed and Connors was released.

Shortly after the Greater Boston Masonry website went offline and so did Connors.

Malden District Court issued a warrant for his arrest on charges of fraud, defacing/damaging property, and conspiracy at the Cox’s house.

According to the Malden police report, Connors didn’t have any identification on him, only the picture of a license from Ireland on his phone.

NBC10 Boston spoke with three other people who said they’d had similar experiences with Joseph Connors, but didn’t want to share their story on camera.

We’ve made multiple attempts to contact Connors and his companies by telephone and email. The phone numbers provided to police are all disconnected. There currently is a warrant out for Connors’ arrest and he’s now considered a fugitive from justice.

If someone starts a project on your house and all of a sudden runs into a few more projects on your house, that’s a red flag,” said Mark McCullough of MJM Masonry.

McCullough has been a mason for 35 years and employs 90 people through his business in Arlington. He’s heard of at least a dozen similar incidents this year where someone claimed to be a mason damaging a home or just running off with the money. He said they tend to target the elderly.

Earlier this year, Arlington police made several arrests in an effort to crack down on the practice in their town. Similar crimes were reported in Saugus and other Massachusetts towns.

It’s very bothersome and I tend to go out of my way to help rectify the situation. But unfortunately, the damage was done before I really got there,” he said.

McCullough says you can’t trust the internet reviews anymore when hiring a mason. He said word of mouth is still preferred and you should also check with your local supply yard for recommendations.

Now, the reason for that is the person on the other end of the phone knows if they’re paying their bills, which is key,” said McCullough “So that means they’re running a good business and they’re not going to suggest anybody that comes infrequently and gets strange stuff.”

The Coxes are out $6,000 from the initial job and still on the hook for over $50,000 in repairs to their foundation. Unfortunately, their homeowner’s insurance won’t cover the damage.

“The idea that there just isn’t a system for stopping this or for making it better is devastating,” said Daniel.

“Yeah, definitely like a loss and faith in the system that there is absolutely nothing that can be done,” said Lydia.