Can a Roofing Contractor be Charged with Theft?
After every hail storm of tornado roofing contractors will defend on neighborhoods looking for repair work. Most contracts are honest and upright and do a great job. However, sometimes a roofing contractor is hired, paid, but then fails to fix your roof as agreed. Law enforcement may get involved, and even arrest a roofing contractor for theft, or they may tell the homeowner this is a “civil matter” and to file a lawsuit in small claims court instead. If you are charged with theft over a roofing case, most often the prosecutor will require restitution as a condition of any plea bargain, or even offer a better plea offer if you pay restitution upfront. This varies by county.
What is theft in Texas? How does that apply to roofing contractors?
Texas classifies its theft offenses according to the value of the services or stolen property. In Texas, theft is a serious offense, hence its crimes range from a Class C Misdemeanor Theft a Felony in the First-Degree Theft. Punishments may range from 180 days in jail to life imprisonment depending on the value of the stolen property. Fines may reach up to $10,000 as well as restitution to the victim.
In the subsequent case, I discuss the law for theft and how the court found the evidence was sufficient to reach a theft conviction.
APPELLANT v. THE STATE OF TEXAS
The appellant was a roofing contractors convicted under penal code section 31.03 for theft. Section 31.03 defines theft as the unlawful appropriation of the property with the intent to deprive the owner of the property. A claim of theft made in connection with a contract, however, requires proof of more than an intent to deprive the owner of property and subsequent appropriation of the property. Wirth v. State, 361 S.W.3d 694, 697 (Tex. Crim. App. 2012). The State must prove the appropriation was the result of a “false pretext or fraud.” Id. The evidence must show that the defendant intended to deprive the owner of their property at the time the property was taken. Id. In reviewing the evidence, the court will look at events “before, during, and after the commission of the offense and can rely on the actions of the defendant which show preparation of the act. Id.
Here, Appellant appeals his convictions for theft. The appellant was convicted of undertaking property repair projects with no intent to complete the projects while deceiving the property owners into handing over the payment from their insurance proceeds. The appeals court reviewed two cases tried together. Both indictments alleged that the Appellant received and took funds without the consent of the property owners.
Evidence against the Appellant
In this case, the evidence of events before, during, and after the alleged thefts demonstrate that Appellant designed a plan to take the insurance proceeds of the property owners.
- The evidence shows that the Appellant withdrew and spent $63,707.35 from his construction company’s business account at casinos during the same period he received $99,724.26 from the property owners.
- During this time, he failed to perform any repairs on the first property owner’s property and performed only superficial and temporary repairs in the second. Additionally, he entered into a contract with a third property owner and left the house uninhabitable.
- The record shows that the Appellant repeated the same pattern of behavior in all three instances he entered into contracts with the property owners. Appellant claimed experience and promised quick resolution followed by missed deadlines and delayed meetings excused by overscheduling and travel.
Ultimately, he abandoned every project.
Court of Appeals affirms the trial court’s decision
Appellant admits to not completing the projects at issue and to withdrawals at casinos. Appellant contends that because he obtained city permits to start repair work and initiated partial performance, the evidence was insufficient to support theft. However, the appeals court found that partial performance did not invalidate the jury’s finding that Appellant wrongfully deprive property owners of insurance proceeds. See Taylor v. State, 450 S.W.3d 528, 537 (Tex. Crim. App. 2014). Here, the appeals court held that the jury did not err in determining that Appellant had no intention of completing the repair projects or returning the money.