Wagswoofs – A contractor from Galveston County, Texas, who stole from more than 30 individuals, including two World War II veterans, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison on Tuesday.
John James Thomas pleaded guilty in Galveston County District Court, just days before his trial was scheduled to begin. According to the Galveston County District Attorney’s Office, Thomas was involved in a construction fraud scheme that targeted more than 30 victims. As a result, he was sentenced to 10 years for two counts of aggregated theft by Judge Kerry Neves.
The district attorney’s office stated that this contractor’s actions and behavior went beyond the typical civil disputes, reaching the level of a first-degree felony. This was due to a continuous course of conduct and a pattern of behavior that specifically targeted elderly victims.
In 2019, the Galveston County District Attorney’s Office initiated an investigation following the disclosure of elderly victims and the identification of a distinct pattern of criminal activity involving Thomas.
Officials have revealed that Thomas was able to gain the trust of the victims by presenting himself as a reputable custom home builder and contractor. He would deliberately underbid his competitors, but in truth, he had no intention of carrying out the work. As a result, he managed to defraud elderly citizens out of more than $100,000.
The district attorney’s office revealed that instead of carrying out the agreed-upon work on homes in Galveston County, he chose to spend thousands of his victims’ dollars at a casino in Louisiana.
During the investigation, the district attorney’s office obtained various records, including bank records, casino records, Venmo records, Zelle records, and more. Investigator Ernest Robles and Fraud Examiner subpoenaed these records to gather evidence. Former Fraud Examiner Courtney Hebert stated that the pattern of behavior displayed by John Thomas was clear – he never kept his promise. After analyzing the extensive records, it was determined that Thomas not only took money from victims without providing the promised materials, such as windows, but also used banking apps to request funds while at the casino. Additionally, he charged his victims for permits that were never obtained and claimed payment for mold restoration when there was no mold present.
Thomas would often initiate his thefts by actively communicating with his victims and demonstrating the progress of the work, particularly through demo work. This strategy was aimed at gaining the trust of the victims and convincing them to provide additional funds and projects. However, once he received the funds, Thomas would make various excuses and abandon the projects altogether. Shockingly, Thomas targeted retired individuals, including World War II veterans aged 93 and 98. These were just a few examples of the numerous victims Thomas victimized in Galveston County.
Thomas faced legal trouble when the Galveston County Grand Jury indicted him in 2019. Despite being released on bond, he persisted in his fraudulent activities and faced another charge in 2021. This time, he was charged with third-degree felony aggregated theft, targeting victims of all ages. The court decided to revoke Thomas’ bond, and he has been in jail awaiting trial for both cases. Hilary Miller and Michael Rinehart, Assistant District Attorneys, handled the prosecution, while Thomas also faces pending criminal theft cases with a similar approach in neighboring counties.
Chief ADA Miller expressed gratitude to the law enforcement officers, fraud investigators, and victims who collaborated to hold Thomas accountable, acknowledging the prevalence of contractor fraud in society and its challenging nature to substantiate.
“John Thomas has learned that actions have consequences, and now he is facing the reality of prison,” stated Rinehart.