More fraud charges
Home remodeler accused of bilking two dozen victims
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