CRETE, Ill. (CBS) — Two so-called contractors now face even more charges — felonies — months after CBS 2 unraveled their phony home repair scheme across Chicagoland.
Police told CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas that his reporting helped them build their case.
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Crete police Detective Sgt. Adam Groszek and Sgt. Anthony Konvalinka are two investigators who wouldn’t give up.
“Extensive leg work,” Groszek said.
“A lot of work,” said Konvalinka.
That work paid off in the form of a candid picture of a so-called contractor. And it cracked the case for the investigators, who identified Justin Ephraim and Jorge Molina as the suspects.
“A key turning point in this was when our victims were able to identify Ephraim from the CBS news report, that really opened up the doors,” Konvalinka said.
Sgt. Konvalinka was referring to our investigation into a home repair scam that made its way across the Chicago area late last year. We met multiple victims who all claimed the same men tricked them into paying thousands of dollars for work they never finished.
Donyiel and Terrance Crocker hired Urban Construction Group to do $2,800 worth of work to their house in Crete. We talked with them in December.
The Crockers agreed to pay $1,400 upfront, and Urban knocked down some of their walls. Then, Urban convinced the Crockers to give up $5,000 more for supposed plumbing work.
“They were taking advantage of our lack of knowledge,” Terrance Crocker said.
Then, the so-called contractors said they would need even more money, because the house was not up to code. So the family called up an inspector with the Village of Crete, and he said the house was fine.
“The building inspector came – he saw them,” Donyiel Crocker said. “As soon as that happened, they decided to go for lunch.”
“They never came back,” Terrance Crocker added.
So the Crockers searched online for contractor scams in Chicago, and found the strikingly similar stories we reported about a group called Riverside Roofing and Masonry.
The Crockers said the contractor in our Riverside story known as Justin was one of the contractors at their house, but Urban Construction told them his name was Tony.
But they were able to recognize him from a photo as the same guy who took their money.
“Had it not been for them being as aware and willing to come forward with that and making the photo id from the new broadcast, we probably wouldn’t have got as far,” Sgt. Konvalinka said.
Both men were arrested earlier this year on lesser charges in Glencoe, and both bonded out.
Now, Crete police say they’ve combined that Glencoe case with theirs – leading to new charges and new arrest warrants.
Crete police said they already arrested Molina and he bonded out again, but they’re still looking for Ephraim.
As for those victims?
“I am glad that Crete has been diligent,” said Donyiel Crocker.
She said they found a real contractor to complete the work on their home, but they’re still hoping to get their $6,400 dollars back – and that’s not all.
“More so than anything, just to have these individuals stopped, and hopefully let that be a lesson to anyone else who’s out there,” she said.
As the case moves through court, the sergeants hope they’ve finally stopped the fraud.
“Or at least they’re going to stop in our area,” Konvalinka said.
We tried to reach Ephraim and Molina, but we weren’t able to get a hold of them.
They’re charged with Continuing Financial Crimes, Home Repair Fraud, and Theft by Deception.