Contractor loses appeal after fraudulent reno of elderly woman’s home | Toronto Star
A Toronto contractor found to have defrauded an elderly woman, torn apart her home and drained her savings has lost his appeal.
Jack Singer was convicted of fraud in Toronto in June 2013, a decision he immediately appealed. Last week, a panel of judges dismissed his bid, following a hearing at Osgoode Hall on Tuesday morning.
Singer, who had been out on bail pending the outcome of the hearing, had surrendered to the court the night before and was arrested. He did not appear in the courtroom.
The case centered around Singer’s business relationship with Kennis Heath, the woman he convinced to sign up and pay for more than $300,000 of renovations on a $400,000 home. The renovations were not completed, and Heath would eventually be found unresponsive and severely dehydrated in her unheated and badly damaged house.
During last week’s hearing, Singer’s lawyer, Alan Gold, argued that Singer’s fraud conviction was based primarily on what Superior Court Justice Glenn Hainey had called “gross overcharging.” That ruling was based, in part, on Singer charging an estimated $85,000 on top of what he told Heath the work would cost.
But Gold told the appeal panel that overcharging, in and of itself, or without explicit evidence of dishonest conduct, could not be considered or defined as fraud.
“If the law of fraud in Canada became that you are guilty of a criminal offence if you charge more than fair market value, we would have to double the number of jails,” Gold said.
Crown counsel Susan Ficek responded that Singer had left Heath’s home in a shambles and that, despite not finishing the work, he demanded more money — and intended to defraud her.
“He took $300,000 of her money and left her house in an uninhabitable state. And he took the position that the victim still owed him money,” she told the panel.
At the conclusion of the 2013 trial, Justice Hainey described Singer’s conduct as “despicable.”
Heath was “an elderly and vulnerable person and he deliberately preyed upon her and defrauded her of her life savings,” showing no remorse, Hainey said in his June 2013 ruling.
On that day in 2013, Hainey sentenced Singer to two years less a day in jail and ordered him to pay $215,000 in restitution. Singer, who did not speak with the Star during the criminal trial, had maintained his innocence in an earlier interview.
Heath’s son Brian expressed relief at the appeal court decision. “It was a long time coming,” he told the Star. “Hopefully some lessons were learned.”
The story of how Singer came into Heath’s life was detailed in a 2013 investigation in the Star.
In 2008, the then 76-year-old Heath found a pamphlet in the mailbox of her Willowdale home for a company called Stay at Home Renovations. Heath called for a consultation and Singer arrived at her door.
He then convinced her, the trial court heard, to rebuild her chimney, install an eavestrough, build a cedar deck, install a new kitchen and two bathrooms, as well as remove black mould and put in new plumbing and electrical wiring.
The work was not going as planned, but Heath kept her son in the dark. In a preliminary hearing, Heath, who was not well enough to attend the original trial, said Singer left her “living in shambles,” and was just “tearing the house apart.”
It was a worker who sounded the alarm, contacting paramedics who found a severely dehydrated and unresponsive Heath inside a house with no heat and exposed wiring.
Source: Toronto Star – Emily Mathieu