More fraud charges

Home re­mod­eler ac­cused of bilk­ing two dozen vic­tims

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - DAILY LOCAL NEWS - By Michael Gold­berg mgold­berg@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @mg_there­porter on Twit­ter

The 34-yearold owner of a Hat­field Town­ship home re­mod­el­ing com­pany taken into cus­tody in Septem­ber fol­low­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into his pur­ported fraud­u­lent business prac­tices now faces 107 crim­i­nal counts after more al­leged vic­tims came for­ward after his ar­rest, ac­cord­ing to po­lice.

Pros­e­cu­tors filed an amended crim­i­nal com­plaint late Mon­day charg­ing Jose Javier Cruz of the first block of Whitemarsh Lane with 40 counts of de­cep­tive business prac­tices and 20 counts each of theft, theft by de­cep­tion and re­ceiv­ing stolen prop­erty, all third­de­gree felonies.

The owner of Bent­ley Sur­faces in the 600 block of Beth­le­hem Pike, Cruz has also been charged with four counts of mis­de­meanor bad checks as well as mis­de­meanor counts of theft, theft by de­cep­tion and re­ceiv­ing stolen prop­erty.

Hat­field Town­ship po­lice De­tec­tive Thomas Starner, who led the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, said in court doc­u­ments that the to­tal loss to the 22 in­di­vid­u­als and busi­nesses vic­tim­ized by Cruz to date to­tals more than $109,000.

On Tues­day after­noon, Cruz — who has been in­car­cer­ated at Mont­gomery County Cor­rec­tional Fa­cil­ity since his Sept. 19 pre­lim­i­nary ar­raign­ment — waived his

pre­lim­i­nary hear­ing be­fore Mont­gomery Town­ship Dis­trict Judge An­drea Hu­dak Duffy via video from county jail, send­ing all charges to county court for trial.

Ac­cord­ing to the crim­i­nal com­plaint, Hat­field Town­ship po­lice started look­ing into Cruz’s business deal­ings on Aug. 6 after re­ceiv­ing sev­eral re­ports of fraud in­volv­ing Bent­ley Sur­faces, a gran­ite, mar­ble and tile com­pany that spe­cial­izes in cus­tom coun­ter­tops and kitchen and bath re­mod­el­ing, ac­cord­ing to the com­pany’s Face­book pro­file.

One al­leged vic­tim paid more than $8,000 to Cruz in July for kitchen cab­i­nets and counter tops, but the prod­ucts were not de­liv­ered as promised, and when he went back to Bent­ley Sur­faces to speak to Cruz and ask for his money back, the two got into an ar­gu­ment and Cruz threat­ened to harm him be­fore promis­ing the items would be de­liv­ered, the com­plaint states.

How­ever, de­tec­tives said, Cruz — who cashed the checks the vic­tim gave to him — failed to ful­fill his prom­ise and dodged re­peated phone calls from the vic­tim, who then found out from the man­u­fac­turer of the prod­ucts he had paid for that Cruz had never placed an or­der for them. In­ves­ti­ga­tors later found out that the man­u­fac­turer had not been ac­cept­ing any or­ders from Bent­ley Sur­faces, ac­cord­ing to the af­fi­davit.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the com­plaint shows, an Edi­son, New Jersey, cabi­net man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pany de­liv­ered prod­ucts to Bent­ley Sur­faces in July and the driver ac­cepted two checks from the com­pany to­tal­ing nearly $5,000 for the items, both of which later bounced. The com­pany sent a reg­is­tered let­ter to Cruz de­mand­ing pay­ment but never re­ceived any money from Cruz, Starner said.

The amended crim­i­nal com­plaint shows that nu­mer­ous other al­leged vic­tims — who came for­ward after hear­ing news of Cruz’s ar­rest in Septem­ber, ac­cord­ing to po­lice — had sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ences with Bent­ley Sur­faces go­ing back to the be­gin­ning of 2016. Many did not have their paid-for prod­ucts de­liv­ered and/or in­stalled when promised, while oth­ers had their in­stal­la­tions done poorly or in­com­pletely. Some vic­tims re­ported to po­lice that when they at­tempted to con­tact Cruz to can­cel their or­ders and get their money back, he ei­ther didn’t re­turn re­peated calls to both Bent­ley Sur­faces and his per­sonal cell­phone or he failed to re­spond to writ­ten cor­re­spon­dence, ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint.

Sev­eral vic­tims told de­tec­tives that they went to Bent­ley Sur­faces to speak to Cruz per­son­ally to find out what was go­ing on with their de­liv­ery or to get a re­fund. In one in­stance, he promised a vic­tim that the prod­ucts would soon be de­liv­ered and they weren’t, and in an­other in­stance, a vic­tim was told by an­other em­ployee that Cruz was un­avail­able to speak to them be­cause he was in the hos­pi­tal, the com­plaint states.

In court on Tues­day, Duffy agreed to re­duce Cruz’s bail from $30,000 cash to a nom­i­nal $1 bail, although Cruz is also be­ing held at county jail on a pro­ba­tion vi­o­la­tion de­tainer and thus is cur­rently in­el­i­gi­ble for re­lease.

Duffy also set a bail con­di­tion that Cruz is to have no con­tact with any of his al­leged vic­tims while the case is still ac­tive.

Cruz is sched­uled to be for­mally ar­raigned in Mont­gomery County court on Jan. 4.

Jose Javier Cruz

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