Photo by Flickr user Sheba_Also
James F. Butler, 52, a contractor from Culpeper, Va., was sentenced today to 26 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution to an elderly woman he tricked into paying more than $170,000 for home improvements that were not performed, announced U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. and Cathy L. Lanier, Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).
Butler pled guilty in November 2012 in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia to a charge of first-degree theft of a senior citizen. He was sentenced by the Honorable Gerald I. Fisher. Judge Fisher ordered Butler to pay $174,471 in restitution to the victim. Upon completion of his prison term, Butler will be placed on three years of supervised release.
According to a factual proffer, signed by the defendant as well as the government, Butler wrongfully obtained the money between December 2011 and February 2012 from the victim, who was then 93 years old and residing alone in Northwest Washington. The victim has memory issues that are readily apparent to anyone having a conversation with her.
Continues after the jump.
Butler met the victim at her home in December 2011. He and his workers asked her to execute multiple contracts for home improvement work. He then falsely represented that the victim owed him money for home improvement labor that was not performed, and for materials that were not installed. He and others told the victim that payments were due for material and labor a total of 38 times during a period of just one and a half months.
Although Butler performed some work and provided some materials at the residence, it was for a fraction of the cost that the victim ultimately paid.
From Dec. 24, 2011 through Feb. 12, 2012, the victim wrote multiple checks for home improvement work to the defendant. On some occasions, Butler would have her write him multiple checks on the same day, knowing that she did not remember already paying him. All told, Butler unlawfully obtained $174,471 from the victim.
Butler is the owner of Nationwide Tree Specialists, a tree and stump removal business that is operated out of his home in Culpeper. He is not licensed as a general contractor in the District of Columbia or elsewhere.
A financial advisor who did work for the victim noticed the payments and the matter was brought to law enforcement’s attention. Butler was arrested at his home in April 2012.
“As our population grows older, we see more and more cases of scam artists exploiting the elderly,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office has focused on both education and prosecution to fulfill our moral responsibility to protect our older neighbors from shady operators who try to take advantage of them. This prosecution demonstrates the importance of reporting elder financial abuse so that we can prevent fraudsters from creating more victims.”
“It is shameful that this criminal preyed on a vulnerable member of our community,” said Chief Lanier. “Hopefully, this sentencing will send a message to other would be thieves and con-artists.”
In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Machen and Chief Lanier praised the work of the Metropolitan Police Department, including the detective in the financial crimes and fraud squad who investigated the case. They also expressed appreciation for the assistance provided by the Virginia State Police, City of Culpeper Police, and a regional law enforcement task force from Virginia. Finally, they acknowledged the efforts of Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie G. Miller, who prosecuted the matter.