Area residents alleged contractor ripoffs online in 2023

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A warning was posted on a Facebook community group about a Southwestern Ontario contractor allegedly ripping people off last spring.

The man had offered to work on a resident’s chimney and asked for a deposit, but never returned to do the promised job, a woman wrote in the March 23, 2023, post on the community group for Thamesville, a town in Chatham-Kent.

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“He refuses phone calls and once in a while, he’ll respond to a text with a million excuses as to why he hasn’t come back,” the woman wrote. “I have continuously asked for our deposit back and he tells me he doesn’t have any money. Do not trust this man.”

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Two other Facebook users replied to the post, including a photo of the man’s truck and his phone number, saying they had also paid the same contractor for work never completed.

This week, more than a year later, provincial police said a man with the same name as the contractor in the social media posts has been charged with defrauding multiple Southwestern Ontario residents of more than $10,000.

Elgin OPP began investigating in January after a West Lorne resident reported a man had offered to fix their chimney, accepted a $200 cash deposit and never returned to do the work, police said.

Investigators determined the same suspect had defrauded seven Southwestern Ontario residents in Petrolia, St. Clair Township, Brooke-Alvinston and Dawn-Euphemia in Lambton County, Southwest Middlesex in Middlesex County and Quinte West, near Belleville, police said.

An arrest warrant was issued for Gary Clarkson, 50, of Dawn-Euphemia, on seven counts of fraud under $5,000. He was arrested last Thursday by an OPP officer in Orillia, police said.

Court documents allege Clarkson used “deceit, falsehood or other fraudulent means” to defraud seven Southwestern Ontario residents out of sums ranging from $200 to $2,000.

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He was released from custody one day after his arrest and is scheduled to appear in a St. Thomas court on June 18.

Clarkson also faces an unrelated impaired driving offence in connection with an alleged incident in Enniskillen Township in central Lambton County April 6, according to court records. He was to appear in court Wednesday

Clarkson couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.

Police encourage any other potential complainants to contact their local police or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501. 

“Given the large geographic area covered by this accused, it is very likely there are other victims,” OPP Const. Brett Phair said by email. “Additionally, the door-to-door type of fraud method is unfortunately a known technique used by scammers.”

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