Roof caves in on crooked home contractors

Fraud of the Month: August 2015

By James Quiggle

imageHome contractors Jack and son Ryan Thayer were known in their community for donating to local causes such as youth sports teams.

Now they’re known for something else: The Bristol Township, Pa. pair ripped off at least 10 homeowners and businesses with shoddy and substandard repairs. All in all, they stole $675,000 from insurers and the homeowners personally.

Often the Thayers pocketed insurance payouts and walked away from the jobs.

Sometimes the pair did no work, simply disappearing with the down payments and refusing to talk with aggrieved homeowners.

Left in their wake was a tale of grief, tears and broken promises involving often-desperate homeowners who were assured speedy repairs after fires, storms and falling trees left them without shelter. The moral: Create a gameplan both to protect yourself from predatory contractors and ensure well-done repairs.

Ryan trolled aggressively for victims. He typically showed up the same nights that homes were damaged or destroyed. Homeowners, anxious for repairs, signed up with Hammer Time. They figured a local, community-based firm would be an honest bet.


Contractors disappeared

And many victims were elderly.

Bill Vogt is 79 years old. A tree crushed his roof and walls of his second floor. He signed a $30,000 contract and paid $25,000 upfront. He never saw the Thayers again despite numerous attempts to contact them. Nor were roofing materials even delivered.

Another elderly victim was 84-year-old Robert Smedley, whose home was seriously damaged by an electrical fire. Ryan offered to board up and secure the home right away. Smedley and his daughters handed the Thayers a $50,000 down payment for reconstruction — about one-third of the $157,531 rebuild estimate. Smedley also paid $10,167 to cover emergency boarding up the house and demolishing the burned portion.

All work soon stopped. The Smedleys sent two dozen calls, text messages and emails to Ryan, without a response. One daughter finally reached Jack. He told her didn’t know when work would resume. Smedley was forced to hire another contractor to finish the job.

Victims lost homes

The Thayers were hired to fix an IHOP restaurant after a car rammed into it. A subcontractor tiled a bathroom that already was scheduled to be removed. No other work was done, and Ryan hung up on the owner when he called about the problems.

One elderly victim died, partly from stress over the lousy work, the victim’s wife said. Two other sets of victims have lost their homes. Others have paid out-of-pocket costs to hire new contractors to repair or rebuild their homes or businesses.

County detectives started investigating as consumer complaints piled up. The Thayers, it turned out, never bothered to get permits for much of the work. They represented themselves at trial and often gave incoherent excuses, news accounts say.

Father blamed son

Ryan blamed the insurers, saying they didn’t pay up on time. Jack threw his son under the bus. Jack said he had little involvement in the business, blaming Ryan for the damage.

Yet the evidence of wrongdoing piled up inexorably. Aggrieved homeowners painted a picture of exploitation and betrayal. What little work the Thayers did was “abysmal,” county prosecutor Marc Furber said.

Cornered, the Thayers pleaded no contest. Jack received seven to 20 years in state prison in late June 2015. Ryan received six to 20 years. They also must repay the stolen money.

“The impact this has had on the victims can’t be measured,” Furber told the court.

< Back to Fraud of the Month list.