A Long Island contractor allegedly stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from southeast Queens homeowners who hired him to renovate their houses but were left with partially demolished buildings, investigators said.
Wayne T. Drinkwine, 59, of St. James, L.I., was arraigned Friday on several charges — including grand larceny, violation of the New York City Administrative Code and conducting a home improvement business without a license — for a series of suspected schemes that date back to three years ago, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.
“The victims in this case, it is alleged, hired the defendant in some instances more than three years ago and paid him considerable amounts of money to remodel their residences,” he said in a statement. “Instead, it is alleged that he began demolition work on their properties and then took the money and ran.”
Drinkwine, who is also known as Wayne Thomas and Duke Russo, allegedly used this tactic for six homes in southeast Queens, according to the DA.
One homeowner in Springfield Gardens signed a $50,000 contract with Drinkwine to remodel her residence and create an extension, Brown said. The homeowner wrote a $15,000 check for a partial payment for the work and made it out to Domcan Development, the contractor’s company, according to Brown.
Drinkwine started some of the work, which included demolition, but did not return to finish the job despite numerous calls from the Springfield Gardens resident, the DA said.
A South Ozone Park homeowner then retained the contractor for a $118,500 project for her house that included new air conditioning, new windows, new electrical, a new roof and siding and a new kitchen, Brown said. Despite paying him $103,143, Drinkwine, who was working under his Wayne Thomas alias for the homeowner, only did the demolition work and did not return for completion, according to Brown.
Drinkwine allegedly pulled the same scheme on four more homes in Queens and reaped more than $419,000 in partial payments, the DA said. When contractors take money, they are supposed to put it in an escrow account in a bank, according to investigators.
“This defendant billed himself as a bona fide home improvement contractor. But according to the indictment, he was nothing more than a con artist who bilked unsuspecting homeowners out of hundreds of thousands of dollars and left their homes in disrepair,” Rose Gill Hearn, the commissioner for the city’ Department of Investigation, said in a statement.
A Queens Supreme Court judge ordered Drinkwine to be held without bail until his next court appearance Oct. 31, the DA said. If convicted of all charges, he faces up to 15 years in prison, Brown said.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@c
©2011 Community News Group
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