Plumber accused in scams arrested
Published 12:00 am Friday, October 21, 2011
By Nathan Hardin
MOCKSVILLE — Deputies arrested John Hodges, an unlicensed plumber, on charges of felony obtaining property by false pretenses on Thursday. He is accused of taking thousands of dollars for work that was not completed.
The arrest at Hodges’ Mocksville home comes less than a month after the Post reported on complaints of incomplete work from four customers in the Rowan and Davie County areas. Eight more people subsequently contacted the Post with similar stories.
According to arrest warrants, Hodges was charged with seven counts of felony obtaining property by false pretense. He was given a $256,000 bond.
Hodges is also involved in criminal cases in Brunswick and Davie counties. According to court records, Hodges faces felony obtaining property by false pretense charges in both counties, as well as a misdemeanor charge for failing to work after being paid in Brunswick County.
Hodges, 40, is accused of defrauding Lorene Trexler, an 86-year-old Salisbury resident, among others.
Trexler told the Post on Sept. 27 that she and her son paid $19,500 to Hodges Plumbing and Restoration in August for what began as a leaky pipe beneath her sink.
Trexler said she called Hodges after finding a flier for his business in the front door of her home on Magnolia Circle.
Only after paying him almost $20,000, Trexler said, did she realize minimal work had been completed to her bathroom, and Hodges had removed all the copper from the home’s plumbing, a pattern that followed experiences reported by other customers.
Eventually, Trexler said, Hodges stopped answering calls and, despite leaving equipment and a half-finished bathroom, never came back to finish the job.
According to the Better Business Bureau, Hodges Plumbing and Restoration has also been advertised as John Boy’s Services and JB’s Handyman Services. The business file was started by the Better Business Bureau on Feb. 12, 2009. The business is listed with an F-rating with three complaints.
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Hodges has been in legal trouble before. He was convicted in 2002 of three felonies for obtaining property by false pretense, with two in New Hanover County and the third in South Carolina. He was convicted in 2006 for larceny of more than $1,000 in Surry County, and again in 2007 for misdemeanor larceny in Davie County.
Phone calls to Davie County Sheriff’s Office and Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office were not immediately returned Thursday.
Hodges is also named in a civil lawsuit with Martha Edwards in Brunswick County over work that Edwards says was never completed.
Salisbury resident Cecil Hutchinson is also suing Hodges over an allegation of unsatisfactory work from earlier this year. According to the lawsuit obtained by the Post, Hutchinson is represented by attorney Richard Reamer.
The lawsuit, which was filed Sept. 20, says that Hodges began taking money from Hutchinson on March 6 for repair work that increased in scope from a $5,500 project to $21,200.
The lawsuit says Hodges is an unlicensed contractor who, “by fraud and deceptive trade practice through advertisements and representations held himself out to be a qualified workman with years of experience.”
The lawsuit also says Hodges knew “the work was not necessary or that he could not or would not complete the work.”
Citing their pending cases, Hutchinson and Edwards declined to comment.
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Handcuffed and shackled, Hodges walked slowly across West Liberty Street on Thursday, escorted by Detective Theresa Haupt and Detective Sam Henline.
He declined comment to a Post reporter.
The arrest warrants listed Lorene Trexler, Patrick Broadway, Cecil Hutchinson, William Thompson, William McCranie, Henry Buckner and Deborah Smith as complainants.
Between the seven people, authorities believe Hodges was paid a total of $131,668.
Deborah Smith was one of the hardest hit customers, according to warrants. She paid $70,000 over a few months in the spring of 2008.
In a letter from Smith to Hodges, dated June 30, 2008, Smith wrote, “We had an agreement. We had a contract. Somewhere along the way, you decided to disregard those. What started out as a $14,900 remodeling project of two weeks, became four months later a $70,300 remodeling and repair job that is nowhere near completion.”
Smith, whose husband was working in Arizona while the home projects were being done, said she wrote numerous letters in 2008 to the BBB, N.C. Licensing Board, attorneys and local authorities, but she was unable to get help.
“Where do you go?” Smith asked. “If we can’t go to the police when we’ve been getting taken advantage of, I think something is wrong.”
Smith initially wanted a breakfast nook at her 120 Midsail Road home near High Rock Lake. She hired Hodges in 2008, according to invoices from John Boy’s Construction. By April, Hodges had torn all the tile from the bathroom and had told her the copper pipe under her home was rotten and would have to be replaced.
Each of the seven arrest warrants said that Hodges had taken copper pipes from beneath the homes, replacing them with PVC pipes.
Trexler, 86, told the Post that she asked Hodges where the copper pipe had been taken after it was removed and Hodges told her he sold it for less than $100. She said he later told her he would take that amount off her bill, which grew to $19,500.
According to the N.C. Licensing Board, Hodges isn’t a licensed plumber.
Executive Director Dale Dawson said plumbing, unlike general contracting, has no exemption amount and a plumbing license is required for any plumbing work.
The state allows “general construction up to $30,000,” Dawson said. “He would have to have a license for that.”
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At Lorene Trexler’s house, Hodges noticed a photo of the Rev. Billy Graham on her wall, she said. The next time Hodges returned to the home, he brought a Bible with him, saying Graham had given it to him.
For others, Hodges spoke frequently about his children and being “a family man.”
William “Bill” McCranie, one of the most recent unhappy customers, said he hired Hodges in part because of his family oriented advertisements.
“He was holding his daughter,” McCranie said about a photo in one of Hodges’ ads. “I thought, ‘That sounds pretty good.’ ”
But McCranie said he soon found it difficult to contact Hodges after he paid him. The job was about 95 percent complete, but it turned out to be different than what Hodges had proposed.
“I’ve repeatedly tried to contact John. He doesn’t answer his phone when you call and he doesn’t respond when you leave messages,” McCranie said. “It’s nothing like what I was told was going to be installed.”
McCranie said the shower that was installed less than two months ago is cracking around the floor.
“I’m getting more and more disgusted,” he said.
The Rowan County Sheriff’s Office said the investigation is ongoing and asked that anyone with information about the case contact Detective Lt. Chad Moose at 704-216-8687 or Detective Teresa Haupt at 704-216-8702.
Contact Nathan Hardin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 704-797-4246.
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