GREENFIELD — A second person has been charged in the home improvement fraud case that is now estimated to have left $1 million of paid work on central Indiana homes unfinished.
At least a dozen of those victims live in Hancock County, according to the original charging documents filed against the company’s owner earlier this month.
Kurt Beard, 31, of Noblesville, is now listed as a co-defendant in the case against Veteran Construction owner Mike Friery, which means he is charged with the same 42 felonies of home improvement fraud and theft.
Prosecutors originally charged Friery with 36 felonies but added more counts as the investigation grew.
Friery has been under investigation since last summer after police took multiple complaints from homeowners who hired him to repair their roofs, and he didn’t complete the work, court documents state.
Beard was an office manager for Friery, whose office was at one time based in Fishers. Beard recently filed for bankruptcy, citing nearly $1 million in claims against him personally and Veteran Construction.
Beard pleaded not guilty to the charges at an initial hearing Monday afternoon and was released from Hancock County Jail on a $10,000 cash bond.
Veteran Construction went out of business during the early stages of the criminal investigation, police said.
Friery left the state and started another construction company under another name, court records state.
He returned from Florida to face charges locally early this month. He pleaded not guilty and posted a $30,000 cash bond.
Workers for Veteran Construction – several of whom cooperated with police – visited Hancock County homes after thunderstorms caused significant hail damage.
They offered roof inspections and an estimate for repair. In each case, the homeowner then paid up front for a portion of the labor and materials, court documents state. Many had signed contracts from Veteran Construction that stated work would begin in 45 days.
For at least a dozen homeowners, none of the work was ever started, and Friery failed to return phone calls from the customers left hanging, according to charging documents.
But Friery did answer calls from investigators after the case came to their attention last year.
Capt. Jeff Rasche, head of the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department’s investigations unit, took the lead on the case and in August spoke with Friery as the investigation developed. The contractor assured Rasche “all of the jobs would be completed once he had the funding to do so,” court documents state.
The following month, an attorney contacted Rasche and said Friery had hired independent contractors to complete all the work. Five months later, no work had been completed, court documents state.
Rasche dug into Friery’s history and said he learned Friery has operated repair companies in states across the country, each time leaving victims in his wake.
He is currently operating Storm Management Inc. in Florida.
Beard is charged with eight Class C felonies, which carry a penalty of two to eight years and up to $10,000 in fines; and 34 Class D felonies, which carry a penalty of six months to three years and up to $10,000 in fines.
Friery is charged with six Class C felonies and 36 Class D felonies.
Both men return to court for a pre-trial conference in April.