A Sussex County Superior Court Grand Jury indicted seven Sussex County men May 7 in connection with scamming dozens of residents – many living in manufactured housing – out of thousands of dollars.
“There could be other victims who have not filed complaints,” said Jason Miller, spokesman for the Attorney General's Office. “And some people with seasonal homes could discover thefts when they return to their homes.”
The men – six from Millsboro and one from Lewes – worked for Mid Atlantic Heating and Air of Millsboro, Miller said, noting the company is not connected to one by the same name that operates out of Salisbury, Md.
Delaware State Police and officials with the Attorney General's Fraud and Consumer Protection Division began investigating the company three months ago after receiving a complaint that John Walsh, 51, owner of Mid Atlantic Heating and Air, was paid for work but never completed the work as promised.
Investigators discovered Walsh had been arrested for insurance and check- cashing fraud in January, and police extradicted him from Pennsylvania in February when he was questioned and arrested on a fugitive warrant, Miller said.
"The very next day he was back out in the community soliciting payments from homeowners for work he promised to complete," Miller said.
On March 4, police arrested Walsh for the third time this year and charged him with home-improvement fraud and theft.
The indictment states that Walsh and his associates collected more than $135,000 from residents, some who paid up to $36,000 for work. In some cases, Miller said, the men painted old heating and cooling systems and installed them as brand new units. The men also charged for work that either was not done or didn't need to be done and for parts that were not provided, he said.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Miller said, Walsh went to Swann Keys manufactured home community and collected money from two homeowners to fix flood damage to their homes. In one instance, he installed a heating unit upside down and in another he threatened a homeowner that he would condemn the home unless he was paid $10,000 to remove the mold, Miller said.
On top of it all, Miller said, Walsh had been receiving full monthly Social Security Disability payments – $35,000 from January 2011 to December 2012.
In addition to Walsh, the grand jury indicted Jonathan Walsh, 19, Vernon Speece, 36, and Raymond Smith, 66, all of Millsboro and Robert Morrison, 36, of Lewes.
Police are searching for Randi Sherman, 25, and Tony Anthony Miller, 56, both of Millsboro.
John Walsh was charged with 101 offenses including racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, home improvement fraud, theft, unlawful use of a credit card, insurance fraud, forgery and issuing a bad check. He was committed to Sussex Correctional Institution on $101,000 secured bond.
Jonathan Walsh and Speece were charged with 40 similar offenses including racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, home improvement fraud, theft, insurance fraud and forgery. Attorney General Beau Biden said Jonathan Walsh has been arrested several times since March for stealing heating and cooling units in the Pot Nets community. Speece is connected to one of the cases, Biden said.
Jonathan Walsh was committed to SCI on $40,000 secured bond; Speece was already incarcerated at SCI and $40,000 unsecured was added to his bond.
Morrison was charged with 22 counts of racketeering, conspiracy to commit racketeering, home improvement fraud, theft, insurance fraud and issuing a bad check. He was released on $22,000 unsecured bond.
Smith was charged with issuing a bad check and theft; his bond information was not available.
Anyone who suspects they may be a victim is asked to call the Attorney General's Protection Unit at 1-800-220-5424.