Orange County News
For Immediate Release Contact: Christopher Borek
February 9, 2022 845.291.3276, 845.238.4245c
District Attorney Hoovler Announces Guilty Plea in
Home Improvement Contractor Case
Defendant Pleads Guilty to Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree
for Defrauding Three Property Owners
District Attorney’s Office to Determine Restitution Alleged to Exceed $300,000
Orange County District Attorney David M. Hoovler announced that on February 8, 2022, Shayla Sellars, 38, of Newburgh, pleaded guilty to the felony charge of Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, for having defrauded three sets of victims in connection with renovations to houses that they had purchased through Sellars in the City of Newburgh. Under the terms of the plea agreement placed on the record at the time that Sellars pleaded guilty, she will be ordered to pay restitution to the victims in an amount to be determined by the District Attorney’s Office when she is sentenced on May 22, 2022. The collective amount of restitution that has been alleged in the case exceeds three hundred thousand dollars.
The charges against Sellars were the result of an investigation conducted by the New York State Department of Financial Services, the City of Newburgh Police Department and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and included the execution of a search warrant at Sellars’ residence for financial documents. Sellars was indicted by an Orange County Grand Jury and charged with two counts of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree, Grand Larceny in the Third Degree and Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree. Each of the larceny counts alleged that she had misappropriated funds that she had received as a contractor on a home improvement project in violation New York State’s Lien Law and Penal Law as to a particular victim. The Scheme to Degree in the First Degree count encompassed all of the victims.
New York State’s Lien Law provides that when a contractor receives money on a contract to improve real property, such as a house, the contractor holds that money “in trust” for the benefit of those who provide labor on the job, any subcontractors, those who supply the building materials, and, in the case of improvement to private residences, the homeowners. If the contractor does not work on the project, does not properly pay the money they received to those who worked on the project or supplied materials, and does not return the money to the homeowner, they are deemed under the law to have stolen the money. The Lien Law also provides that a contractor who receives money to improve a homeowner’s residence may not use that money on other jobs.
District Attorney Hoovler thanked the City of Newburgh Police Department and the New York State Department of Financial Services for their investigation and the arrest of Sellars.
The case is being prosecuted by Chief Assistant District Attorney Christopher Borek and Assistant District Attorney Darlene De Jesus-Rosenwasser.
“Losing the ability to live in the house of their choice because they have been the victim of an unscrupulous contractor can have long lasting effects on homeowners,” said District Attorney Hoovler. “It is important that homeowners know their rights when dealing with home improvement contractors. Unscrupulous contractors give legitimate contractors an undeserved bad name. Hopefully, this disposition will bring some closure to the victims and will deter other home improvement contractors who are tempted violate the Lien Law to defraud their customers. It is important that we alert consumers about what they are entitled to from those who they hire to make improvements on their most valuable asset. I look forward to continuing to work with our law enforcement partners in reducing contractor fraud.”
A criminal charge is merely an allegation that a defendant has committed a violation of the criminal law, and it is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the State of New York’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.