SALEM – A Middleton man, who posed as a licensed building contractor and left his victims financially ruined, homeless and questioning their faith in humanity, was sentenced to state prison after pleading guilty to 42 charges including larceny, forgery, insurance fraud, asbestos violations, perjury, and being a common and notorious thief.
Judge Thomas Drechsler sentenced Jaime Ford, 49, to a term of 2 to 2 and half years in state prison at a sentencing hearing yesterday in Salem Superior Court. Ford pleaded guilty to 42 of 80 indictments on November 20, 2017, one week before he was to stand trial. The remaining indictments were dismissed. The Judge also ordered the defendant to pay $214,500 in restitution to 6 victims, which include 3 individuals, 2 insurance companies and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. (The individuals lived in Beverly, Hudson and North Andover. Mr. Ford operated his “business out of his homes in Lynnfield and Middleton, allowing the case to be prosecuted in Essex County.)
“Too often, these actions are treated as civil matters and criminal prosecutions are not pursued. Thanks to the tireless work of the prosecution and investigative team, Mr. Ford has been held accountable for his criminal behavior,” Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said. “This case should serve as a message to other unscrupulous individuals who believe they can get away with criminal behavior that they conceal behind business titles and corporate entities.”
Essex Assistant District Attorney Philip Mallard recommended a 3 to 4 year state prison sentence. “This defendant’s greed is boundless,” ADA Mallard said. “In spite of multiple civil lawsuits for similar behavior, the defendant continued his deceptive practices and he was undeterred from harming homeowners, insurance companies and the public. He has repeatedly, and for years, ignored the requirements of the law.”
ADA Mallard detailed the defendant’s many schemes to defraud homeowners and insurance companies. Representing himself as a licensed home improvement contractor, Ford would enter into agreements with homeowners to perform specific work, secure down payments and begin work – for which he was not licensed or insured to perform. Additionally, because he was not licensed, he did not obtain the necessary work permits and his work did not conform with local building codes. When forced to obtain building permits, the defendant would impersonate and forge signatures of licensed builders. He was able to avoid scrutiny by convincing homeowners to use home equity lines of credit rather than construction loans which require the bank to review building permits and perform periodic inspections of the work. When victims inquired as to why work on their projects had slowed or ceased, the defendant lied, stating that his wife had cancer, was going into hospice, and had died. All of the money he received from his victims was used to purchase Cadillacs, pay rent on expensive homes and fund lavish trips to casino resorts.
In addition to the contractor schemes, Ford pled guilty to three insurance schemes.
The first fraudulent insurance scheme pertained to a false worker’s compensation claim he filed with Traveler’s Insurance in 2013 through which he collected $37,000 in total disability payments and received a $94,000 surgery paid for through the policy. For this scheme, Ford claimed to be an employee of the company, and created a false Form-W2 stating that he worked for a company earning $250,000 in 2013. In truth, Ford was never employed by that company. Also, while collecting total disability and claiming to be unable to work, Ford started the fraudulent contracting business.
A second fraudulent insurance scheme involved the false report of a break-in to a jobsite in Cambridge, and claim of theft to the carrier, Liberty Mutual. Ford falsely claimed that while renovating the home, the premises was broken into and $50,000 worth of cabinets, plumbing and other materials had been stolen. In truth there was no break-in and those materials were never purchase. Ford altered invoices from other jobs with white-out and submitted them to the insurance company, which paid the false claim allowing Ford to steal $50,000 in the process.
Lastly, for the contracting business, Ford never carried worker’s compensation insurance, leaving his workers, to the extent that any work was completed, not covered for injuries that might have occurred on the jobsite.
Daniel Johnston, Executive Director of the Insurance Fraud Bureau of Massachusetts said “The Insurance Fraud Bureau works closely with District Attorney Blodgett’s office on all types of insurance fraud schemes. In this case Mr. Ford not only did not carry the required Workers Comp insurance for his company, which gave him an unfair advantage and allowed him to prey on unsuspecting homeowners, but submitted a claim under the policy of a different company owned by his brother, and then continued to work while collecting, essentially double-dipping. Insurance fraud schemes such as this drive up insurance rates for all honest businesses.”
“By carrying out illegal asbestos removal, the defendant ignored and completely undermined the long adhered to system that the Commonwealth has in place to protect public health, safety and the environment from the dangers associated with exposure to asbestos,” said John MacAuley of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. “The defendant sought to avoid costs associated with asbestos removal and increase his profit by ignoring the applicable laws, thereby creating egregious public health and environmental impacts.”
Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett commended the prosecution and investigative team, which included ADA Mallard, Massachusetts State Police Trooper Steve Buccheri, Beverly Police Detective Darlene Prinz, Investigator Nora Saint-Martin of the Insurance Fraud Bureau of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and Essex Victim Advocate Maureen Leal.