Belfast businessman accused of duping homeowners out of $1,000
Belfast — A Belfast businessman has been charged with home repair fraud this week after police say he took a $1,000 down payment for work to be done at a home in Bristol last fall but never completed the job, produced the doors or provided the homeowners a refund.
Belfast Detective Sgt. Bryan Cunningham said Michael Mortell, 51, of Belfast, was summoned on the offense Feb. 26 following an investigation prompted when the homeowners contacted police Dec. 27 to report their alleged experiences with Mortell and his business, WinsMor Garage Door Co., Inc.
Cunningham said the trouble started when the homeowners went to Mortell Sept. 28 to order three garage doors and brought the specific paint they wanted used on those doors. They put down a $1,000 down payment on the job, said Cunningham, and Mortell allegedly told his customers the doors would be ordered painted and installed within the following four weeks.
Cunningham said the four weeks came and went, and the homeowners were still waiting in the arrival of their doors. After calling and emailing back and forth with Mortell, Cunningham said the customers stopped in to the business in early December to inquire about the status of the job. Mortell showed the customers a door he had on site and said the others had arrived, and again he promised to get the job done as soon as possible.
On Dec. 27, Cunningham, the homeowners grew tired of waiting and reported the issue to police, at which time Cunningham launched his investigation. The homeowners also contacted the Maine Attorney General's Office and initiated a non-binding mediation process with Mortell in the hopes of getting their money back. After some additional investigation, the homeowners learned that Mortell's accreditation with the Better Business Bureau had been revoked Dec. 18.
"They decided at that point that they didn't want to do business with him at all," said Cunningham.
The homeowners eventually went to another company to order their doors and they have since had the work completed at their home, but have yet to receive a refund from Mortell.
After reviewing a copy of the order form Mortell faxed to the police department to demonstrated that he had ordered the doors in question, Cunningham said the invoice showed Mortell never placed the orders for the doors until Nov. 14, nearly two months after the homeowners placed the order with Mortell's company. Records show Mortell cashed the check from the homeowners, however, on Sept. 30.
"He could very easily have given them their money back," said Cunningham. "But he didn't so he was charged."
Cunningham also learned in his investigation that Mortell had violated a state law that dictates any work order valued at more than $3,000 requires a written contract. The work order for homeowners in this case would have fallen under that category, but Mortell never drew up a contract and all agreement between he and the homeowners were verbal in nature.
Mortell is scheduled to appear at 5th District Court in Belfast Tuesday, April 22.