GREENFIELD — A roofer who took payments for repairs on homes with storm damage and then failed to complete the work has been charged with 36 felonies.
Michael Friery, owner of Veteran Construction, turned himself in to local authorities Wednesday morning and pleaded not guilty to the charges, which include 12 counts of theft and 24 counts of home improvement fraud. All are Class D felonies, each carrying a penalty range of six months to three years and up to $10,000 in fines.
Friery, formerly of Fishers, moved to Florida when Veteran Construction went out of business, allegedly leaving behind homeowners who paid for work that was never completed.
In Hancock County, at least a dozen victims claimed more than $72,000 in losses, according to court documents.
In each case, a salesperson who worked for Friery completed an inspection on the homeowner’s roof and made an estimate for repair. The homeowner then paid up front for part of the work.
In each of the 12 cases listed, no work was started, and Friery failed to return calls from the customers who were left hanging, court documents state.
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. 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 has been completed, court documents state.
“He had promised all of our victims and me that he was going to make it right,” Rasche said. “This was back in July.”
Among the victims is Steve Graham of Greenfield, whose home in the 2600 block of North CR 125W sustained hail damage in a storm last spring.
Graham said a neighbor he trusted recommended the company to him, so he didn’t hesitate to turn over $5,521 after receiving a roof inspection.
“Seemed pretty legitimate to me,” Graham said. “I just signed over my insurance check to the salesperson.”
Graham signed a contract that stated work would begin in 45 days, but he never heard from the company again.
Today, Graham’s roof is still damaged, and he doesn’t know when he’ll be able to have it repaired.
“Can’t afford it now,” he said. “It’ll become a leaky roof, I imagine, eventually.”
Rasche said that after initially contacting Friery, he wanted to give the business owner time to make good on his promises, but it soon became clear Friery had skipped town.
“I think at one point, here in Indianapolis, they ran a successful business; then all of a sudden, he’s up and gone, they’re out of business,” Rasche said. “He’s leaving victims behind, … he’s left rent unpaid. Once you get looking into this, you find out he’s done kind of the same thing before.”
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.
Friery posted a $30,000 cash bond Monday and was released from the Hancock County Jail. He returns to court April 24.