INDIANAPOLIS – A home improvement contractor first exposed by Call 6 Investigates will serve prison time for ripping off an elderly couple, businesses, and the Indiana Department of Revenue.
A Marion County judge sentenced contractor Jerry Hatten this week to 10 years in the Indiana Department of Correction in connection with five separate theft and check deception cases.
He must pay $41,697.88 in restitution to his victims, including $6,006 to Carlene and Keith Hall, an east side couple who said Hatten took their money and never did the work promised.
“He should have time for plenty of soul searching,” said Carlene Hall in response to the sentence. “He won’t be able to do this for awhile to anyone else and we are grateful for that.”
Hatten received credit for 1.5 years for time served in jail, and is expected to serve another 8.5 years behind bars.
However, Jerry Hatten also has pending criminal cases in Hamilton and Jackson counties in which he could face additional prison time.
Carlene Hall, 73, said she may not be alive to see the $6,006 Jerry Hatten owes her.
"This was money I had lost that I would never get back," said Hall. "We aren’t going to win the publishers clearing house or the lottery."
Hatten must also pay restitution to Design & Build Electrical Contractors/Security Force, Ace Alarm Systems, United Auto, Consolidated Electrical Distributors, Barnett Drywall, and the Indiana Department of Revenue.
Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry said Tuesday consumers need to look out for red flags when hiring a contractor.
“Unfortunately we are aware of this type of fraud happening on a frequent basis, and spring is a season with ample opportunities for those who are out to take advantage of property owners,” said Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry in a statement to Call 6 Investigates. “Residents must be on alert for home improvement fraud whenever undertaking a project. To protect yourself, we encourage customers always get a written estimate, never pay a contractor the full fee up front, and to check references or trustworthy referral services.”
When Call 6 Investigates aired the Halls story, Hatten was a convicted felon with warrants out for his arrest.
Shortly after our story aired, Hatten was arrested by local law enforcement.
“I can’t thank you enough for the work you did, Kara,” said Carlene Hall.
Not only was Hatten arrested, following the Call 6 Investigation, prosecutors in multiple counties filed five new criminal cases against Hatten for home improvement fraud, theft and check deception.
Marion County prosecutors mentioned Call 6 Investigates’ report on the Halls when they charged Hatten with four felonies for stealing the Halls $6,000.
But Call 6 Investigates wasn’t finished, because the Halls still needed their home remodeled—it was their 40th wedding anniversary gift to each other.
We contacted the Indiana Builders Association who put us in touch with the Guy Corporation, Shoopman Homes and Ken Woods Painting.
FINDING A CONTRACTOR
- Take your time. Don’t let the contractor rush your decision.
- Do research. Know how much you can afford and what you want to be done.
- Contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division and the Better Business Bureau for complaint information on contractors you are considering.
- Talk to your friends who used this contractor. Did they like his work?
- Opt for the local, well-established contractor. Don’t assume that an ad makes the contractor reliable.
- Compare bids and services. Be skeptical if the bid is too low. Cheaper is not necessarily better. A contractor with a low price may be inexperienced and unable to finish the work for the amount bid.
- Get bids in writing. Does the bid reflect the improvements you discussed? How long will the project take? A detailed, written proposal allows you to shop around.
- Is the contractor licensed, bonded and insured? Licensing requirements vary from community to community.
- Check with your city or county building department to determine the licensing requirements for your area and if the contractor you are considering is properly licensed, bonded and insured.
BEFORE SIGNING THE CONTRACT
- Get a written contract. Indiana law requires home improvement contracts exceeding $150 to be in writing. Before signing the contract, make certain it includes:
- The price of the job
- Payment schedule
- A detailed description of the work and materials (including colors, brand names, and patterns)
- Estimated start and completion dates
- The contractor’s name and address
- A name and telephone number of the person to contact if problems arise
- The contractor’s signature
- Never pay for the entire project before the work begins. Do not pay more than 1/3 of the total cost as a down payment. Remaining payments should be tied to completion of specified amounts of work.
AFTER SIGNING THE CONTRACT
- Is a permit needed for your home improvement? Many localities require permits for building projects. Contact your local building department to see if a permit is needed. A contractor should not start work until the permit is issued.
- Don’t make the final payment to the contractor until you know that all subcontractors and/or suppliers have been paid. Get written a proof of payment. Subcontractors and suppliers may file a mechanics lien against your home if they haven’t been paid.
- Get a copy of the warranty. If a contractor guarantees labor and/or materials, those warranties should be in writing.
- Keep all records related to your project. This includes the contract, change orders, warranties, and correspondence. These records are important, particularly if you have a problem with your project.
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