Habitual offender charged in home improvement fraud case

January 15, 2014
Lloyd Salvatore A. Conte

WAYNESBURG – A Canonsburg man with a long criminal history of defrauding individuals through various business schemes wass charged with allegedly scamming a New Freeport man out of $3,500 for home improvement work never completed.

Greene County Chief Detective Dave Lloyd received a complaint through the state police on behalf of John Rittenhouse of 184 Renner Creek. Rittenhouse told Lloyd Salvatore A. Conte, 56, of 517 Moore Ave., Canonsburg, solicited home improvement work from Rittenhouse by phone in August.

Conte, using the business name of Color Works Painting and Construction Co., entered into a contract Aug. 20 to replace a metal roof at Rittenhouse’s residence. Conte, acting as estimator and CEO of the company, required half the money down for the purchase of materials. Rittenhouse said he was quoted $7,000 for the job and provided Conte with a check for $3,500.

Bank records show that Conte cashed the check Aug. 21, according to a criminal complaint filed before Greene County Magisterial District Judge Lou Dayich. Conte never returned to do any work, nor did he provide any materials for the job.

The work was to be completed in two weeks per the contract.

Rittenhouse told Lloyd he contacted Conte who said he could not get the materials and would refund the money on a specific date. When he had not heard from Conte several days after the date, he attempted to phone him, but his number was disconnected. Rittenhouse tried a second number for Conte but he never answered that number.

Conte was charged in 2011 with receiving advance payment for services and failing to perform under very similar circumstances. This charge was dropped after Conte reached an agreement with Mary Lou Caton of Washington.

Conte, doing work as Color Works Construction, was accused to taking $12,000 from Caton to rebuild a front porch and replace gutters. Caton told police Conte promised Sept. 22, 2011, the work would be completed in two weeks. Charges were filed in December when the work was never done.

In July 2009, Conte pleaded guilty and served a 12-month sentence for theft of leased property in Washington County. He was listed in court records at this time as a habitual offender. Conte pleaded guilty to stealing a laptop computer from the Washington Rent-A-Center. He was sentenced to 1 to 12 months in jail.

In 2007, he was placed in the ARD program after he sold 21 vehicles over the Internet without possessing a license to do so. Conte purchased vehicles from the Tri-State Auto Auction and sold them through eBay under the business name of “scsport.” He transferred the vehicles using a Bridgeville dealership.

In another matter, Conte, operating as the owner of Auto Store in Washington, sold a vehicle with mechanical problems for $4,500. The car began having problems and the new owner gave Conte $1,300 for parts to repair the clutch and install a new engine, but the work was never completed.

In June 2006, Conte sold a car he did not own for $600. The person who purchased the car found this out when they attempted to transfer the title from Conte’s name for insurance purposes.

Conte has yet to be arraigned in Greene County on the charges for allegedly defrauding Rittenhouse.

Tara Kinsell started her career in journalism with the National Geographic Insider Magazine and the Gaithersburg Gazette Newspaper in Montgomery County, Md. Tara has written and photographed sports, features and news stories for the Herald Standard, Greene County Messenger and Albert Gallatin Weekly. She holds degrees in journalism and graphic design from Waynesburg College, now Waynesburg University, and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, respectively.

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