Massachusetts police arrested three men last month for a home improvement fraud involving thousands of dollars, in a story by Ken Paiva of the Fall River Reporter.

Chief Julie Flaherty said an elderly resident notified Arlington Police on Jan. 10 about a potential home improvement fraud. The resident said he was charged excessively for home improvement work and his property was damaged.

According to Flaherty, home improvement projects are a common swindle targeting seniors. Typically, the suspect quotes a very small price for fixing part of a home that needs repair and impairs a different part of the house without the owner’s permission. Then, the suspect says the cost will be a much higher price and persuades the victim to pay a large sum in advance, but takes the payment and does not complete the work.

The victim told police that three men said it would cost $200 to repair a small crack in his front steps. Police identified the men as 21-year-old Peter Gilheney, 18-year-old Richard Gilheney and 18-year-old Patrick Gilheney.

The men went back to the house a few days later and reportedly tore out the front steps without the victim’s permission, then said it would cost $6,000 to repair it. The victim wrote a check for part of the amount, which the suspects reportedly cashed. The victim tried to get his check back but was not able to.

Arlington Police detectives contacted the suspects on Jan. 6, posing as customers. When the suspects arrived at a predetermined location, police approached them. Police identified the Gilheneys as the men who reportedly harmed the victim’s property and took his check, and arrested all three without incident.

Police also determined that Peter Gilheney was reportedly driving without a license and the vehicle’s registration plates connected to a different vehicle.

Police charged Peter Gilheney with Unlicensed Operation of a Motor Vehicle, Number Plate Violation to Conceal Identification, Malicious Destruction of Property of more than $1,200 and Larceny by False Pretenses for over $250.

Law enforcement charged Richard and Patrick Gilheney with Malicious Destruction of Property of more than $1,200 and Larceny by False Pretenses for over $250.

Cambridge District Court arraigned all three men on Jan. 13 and released them on personal recognizance.

The Arlington Police Department wanted to share some tips from the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation regarding home improvement fraud:

  • Victims are typically approached for home improvement frauds by phone, email or traveling door-to-door, and the scammer might say they have worked locally and have surplus material.
  • Scammers usually offer very low prices for their services.
  • Use the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation’s contractor registration look up service to make sure the contractor is registered. Ask the contractor for a business card or their business’ website address.
  • Be leery if the individual drives an unmarked car.
  • Ask for a copy of the company’s standard contract.
  • See if a warranty will be provided and how long it would last.
  • Never pay over one-third the total cost upfront. You should only do so after you confirm the person is a registered contractor and you have a contract.