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Howard Beach contractor defrauds homeowners: DA

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David Celerio, 36, of 2511 Marine Place in Bellmore L.I. and the owner of Midtown Home Improvements, Inc., at 102-15 59th Rd. in Howard Beach, was charged with grand larceny Monday, Brown said. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.Celerio was arraigned Monday night before Queens Criminal Court Judge Gene Lopez, who set bail at $100,000, according to a DA spokeswoman. It was unclear if Celerio made bail."Consumers need to be very careful about the people they hire to come into their homes and do work," Brown said. "A home is often a consumer's largest investment and a rip off as alleged in this case can have long-term consequences."Brown alleged that Celerio was hired by Shah and Rakhshanda Razi of Woodside to do construction work on their 60th Street home. Celerio said he would demolish the one-family house and convert it into a legal two-family structure for $300,000, according to the DA.Celerio asked for a $3,000 down payment from the Razis on Oct. 10, 2005, Brown said. But later that day, Rakhshanda signed a contract with the defendant where she agreed to pay $200,000 up front and $100,000 after the work was completed, the DA said.Two weeks later, Rakhshanda signed an amendment to the contract that decreased the construction cost to $280,000 with $176,000 as the initial payment.The couple was told the money would go into an escrow account for supplies and materials during the re-modeling process and they sent Celerio a $174,052 check on Nov. 1. Instead, the money went to an account under the name "Midtown Building and Construction Corp.," Brown said. Celerio was the sole signatory to that account and he allegedly made cash withdrawals, paid bills and payroll checks with the money, the DA said.Construction workers started to demolish the home by taking out interior walls and dismantling the kitchen after Celerio received the money, but they never returned, according to Brown.Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

Posted 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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