Paoli contractor sentenced after duping customers out of nearly $500,000

PAOLI, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- A home renovation contractor who pleaded guilty to taking almost half a million dollars from customers, but never doing the work, was sentenced on Tuesday.

"He was very, I mean we really liked him when he came here," said customer Suzanne Smith.

Smith, 39, lives in Newtown Square with her 75-year-old widowed father Gerald who is battling cancer. He wanted to do something nice for his daughter by having the kitchen remodeled.

"Ultimately he knew how much it would delight me to get a new kitchen, I love to cook, this was for me," said Smith

They hired 40-year-old contractor Michael Sheehan who owned the now-defunct Element Kitchen and Bath business in Paoli. Back in January of 2018, they gave him $15,455 as a down payment for the work to begin in February. But February came and went and no work was done.

"We would reach out to him and he'd say, 'Oh, other projects have been delayed," said Smith.

More weeks went by and still nothing. So by St. Patrick's Day they were trying to reach him to get a refund.

"At this point, he stopped responding, we quickly noticed that his website and social media presence was gone," said Smith.
The Smiths would soon learn that they and 19 other customers had been duped out of a total of $446,000.

"It felt like kicking someone who was already down and I thought, How dare you. How dare you do this to my father," she said.

Sheehan pled guilty to four counts of theft by deception and was sentenced to 2.5 to 10 years in prison on Tuesday.

Fortunately for the Smiths, they were able to hire a retired carpenter who they say did a beautiful job remodeling their kitchen. Smith has this warning to other contractors thinking of duping their customers.

"You cannot behave so recklessly as a business owner and do what he did and not be punished for it," said Smith.

Sheehan was also ordered by the judge to pay full restitution to the victims. The DA's office says so far he's paid back about $12,000 but Suzanne Smith is not holding her breath they'll ever see all of their money.
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