Contractor arrested following News10NBC investigations

March 01, 2018 07:25 PM

When you hire a contractor, you trust him to use your money on your project. But police say a contractor that News10NBC has been investigating for months pocketed the money instead. That contractor is behind bars.  We explain the law police say he violated, a law designed to protect you when you hire a contractor.

Contractor Alvis Sprague now calls the Ontario County Jail home. He's charged with grand larceny in the third degree and has been denied bail.

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"It was because of a number of prior felony convictions and that contributed to the fact that bail was not accepted," said Dave Tillman, Undersheriff of the Ontario County Sheriff’s Department.

This isn't the first time Alvis Sprague has faced charges of ripping off his customers.  He went to prison for the same thing in 2008.  And if found guilty of this recent charge, this will be his fifth felony.

News10NBC Consumer Investigator Deanna Dewberry caught up with Sprague in small claims court in Rochester.  Susan Sipes was trying to recover some of the almost $17,000 she had paid him to remodel her condo.  Not only did he not finish by the promised date, experts also say his work was shoddy and dangerous.

Shortly after News 10 NBC began our investigation of Sprague in the fall of 2016, the Ontario County sheriff's office launched an investigation of its own.

“It was then decided that the grand larceny charge was appropriate," said Tillman.

Here's why.  The New York Attorney general has published a home improvement fact sheet that points out that by law, your contractor is supposed to put your payment in an escrow account and use it only for your job.  Then if there's a dispute, the contractor can refund the consumer’s unused funds.

“That money should be readily available to the consumer again. But in this particular case, we can see that the money is not there,” said Tillman, referring to the money Sipes paid Sprague.

So that landed Sprague behind bars.  Sipes lives in Seattle.  The condo she paid Sprague to remodel is in Canandaigua. She says part of the challenge was trying to oversee the project from thousands of miles away.  When she discovered that Sprague hadn’t honored the timeline, she contacted News10NBC consumer investigator, Deanna Dewberry

 "I’m so grateful that you were there and stuck to it,” she told Dewberry.

And while she may never see her money, she's grateful that she may see justice.

"He's not going to go out and hurt other people and take their money, and so there's a lot of relief," said Sipes.

Alvis Sprague is in court on Monday, March 5.  News10NBC will continue to follow this case.  Sprague insists he’s innocent and should have been allowed to finish the condo.

Before you hire a contractor, here's Deanna's Do List:

  1. Get at least 3 bids.
  2. Do a background check, like checking the Better Business Bureau.
  3. Ask for proof of insurance.
  4. Get a written contract.  The Better Contractors Bureau has provided an example of what it should look like
  5. Never pay full price up front.  The BBB suggests pay a third up front, a third in the middle, and a third at completion.
  6. Report problems to the BBB, the NewYork State Attorney General’s Office or the Better Contractors Bureau.  


Deanna Dewberry

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