Morning Sun

Barryton man ordered to pay nearly $100K restitutio­n in building scam

- By Eric Baerren ebaerren@medianewsg­

Circuit Court Judge Mark Duthie told a Barryton man that he wasn’t going to tack any fines or court costs on to his 10-month jail sentence because he didn’t think the man would ever pay whole the elderly couple he defrauded in a home building scam.

“The bottom line is a ton of restitutio­n in this case,” Duthie told Dennis Floyd Lalonde, 52.

Duthie ordered Lalonde to repay the couple more than $93,000 he took to build a house, but in reality, left what was largely an empty shell. He also told Lalonde that the amount of restitutio­n is so high that he didn’t expect that Lalonde would ever be able to repay all of it.

Lalonde pleaded no contest to fraudulent use of a contractor fund on Jan. 18. In exchange for that, charges of false pretense of between $50,000-$100,000 and working as an unlicensed builder were dismissed.

He was originally charged with taking more than $323,000 from the couple to build a home on Coldwater Township’s Stevenson Lake Road, but completing very little of it.

At Tuesday’s sentencing, Isabella County Principal Trial Attorney Mark Kowalczyk told Duthie that the invoices he submitted to set restitutio­n were all from Lalonde and showed a pattern of double-dipping and other things. Materials purchased for the home sat out in the elements and became unusable.

Kowalczyk questioned whether the couple — in their 70s when they hired Lalonde — would be able to build their home today, with constructi­on prices so high.

Lalonde had asked for a bit of mercy through his attorney, Chuck Moses. Moses is the third attorney to represent Lalonde. At the first sentencing hearing in mid-march, Lalonde’s second attorney — Dominic Greco, with the Isabella County Public Defender’s Office — asked that he be removed from the case, citing a lack of communicat­ion with Lalonde. He also said Lalonde called his office and disparaged his representa­tion.

Moses asked for minimal incarcerat­ion that would follow the 90-day sentence he was given on a Gratiot County case that Lalonde will start serving once the COVID-19 pandemic is officially lifted. Moses said that Lalonde has a power-washing business that is generating income that he can use to pay down his restitutio­n while also supporting his kids.

Duthie noted that Lalonde had done a good job as a parent, but said that his track record as a businessma­n was spotty. In addition to the Isabella and Gratiot cases, he is also resolving a similar but unrelated case in Kent County.

Lalonde could have faced an additional charge after he abruptly dropped out of the Zoom hearing Tuesday morning. Moses said he had a second phone number to call him, and Duthie said if the attorney was unsuccessf­ul in reaching his client that he planned to issue a bench warrant for Lalonde.

He is expected to report to jail Friday to start his sentence.

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