Tinicum Township police and the Bucks County District Attorney’s office are asking anyone who believes they may have been defrauded by a Doylestown Township contractor to contact them, after the man was charged Tuesday with allegedly defrauding a pair of Tinicum homeowners of $126,000 through home improvement fraud and investment schemes.
According to a news release from the district attorney, Luther Kohler Bates Jr., 74, of Old Dublin Pike, was arraigned on five felony counts as well as misdemeanor charges of writing bad checks and two counts of insurance fraud before being released on unsecured bail by District Judge Gary Gambardella in Ottsville.
According to court records the five felony counts are: Receiving Advance Payment for Services and Failed to Perform, Deceptive Business Practices, Receiving Stolen Property, Theft By Failure to Make Required Dispensation of Funds and Theft By Deception-False Impression.
Per an affidavit of probable cause filed in the case, Bates’ alleged deception of the homeowners began in early 2017 when he suggested they pay him $53,000 to convert a garage they own into a “luxury master bedroom.”
The homeowners had previously hired Bates, through his company–known variously as Apache Renovation, Apache Construction and Apache Pool Service and Renovation–to work on a deck and to perform interior electrical work for them, the news release said.
In April 2017, authorities say the same people paid Bates $2,500 to purchase and install a shed which was never bought.
Minimal work was completed on the garage conversion project, the district attorney’s office said, before Bates allegedly solicited another $20,000 from the homeowners by claiming the money was needed for an investment into three mobile homes in Macungie that he planned to renovate for resale.
Per their agreement with Bates–who allegedly recommended the investment as an easy way for them to fund their home renovations–the homeowners were to receive $8,000 per trailer as the trailers sold, the news release said.
In July 2017, Bates allegedly swindled them out of another $23,500 by claiming the money was to be invested in a home in Levittown, it also said.
“The victims received two $1,000 checks from Bates in September and October of 2017, purportedly intended to refund their investment, (but) both checks were returned for insufficient funds and the victims never received additional money from Bates,” it said.
Investigators say they viewed text messages sent from Bates’ phone in which he allegedly gave the homeowners excuses for why their work wasn’t being performed and why money he owed them was unavailable or on its way.
According to the news release, Tinicum police investigators learned Bates had told another man he was going to finance the trailer project, while his partner would be responsible for the labor.
The unidentified man “told investigators Bates never came up with the money…the agreement fell apart, and the trailers remain in the partner’s name,” the news release said, before adding that “further investigation also revealed Bates had no ownership stake in the Levittown home project.”
When interviewed by police, the owner of the Levittown home reportedly said he’d hired Bates to renovate the property, but fired him after learning Bates allegedly wasn’t paying his subcontractors, and that Bates completed the demolition portion of that project but never finished the renovation.
Bates allegedly admitted accepting $126,000 from the Tinicum homeowners, but said his work for them had earned him about $48,000, according to the criminal complaint cited by the district attorney’s office.
The case was investigated by the Tincum Township Police Department and is assigned to Deputy District Attorney Marc J. Furber for prosecution.
Anyone who believes they may have been defrauded by Luther Kohler Bates Jr. is asked to call Tinicum Police Officer Nicole Madden at 610-294-9158, ext. 20, or Furber at 215-348-6339 (or email firstname.lastname@example.org).