Tina Desmarais was almost ready to put her house on the market and move out of Vermont. All she needed to do was get her roof re-done. This is how she became one of many victims of Ryan Kimball and contractor fraud.
Tina decided to post an ad on Front Porch Forum. “I was asking if anybody knew any roofers,” she said, “because I needed to think about getting prices for my roof to be repaired”. Within a few days, several people had replied saying that they could do the job and giving her estimates.
Ryan Kimball was one of those people. He told Tina that his sister had just passed away and he needed work in between jobs to help pay for the funeral. Kimball gave Tina a quote and gave her references. All of his references said he was a great builder and that he would be good for the job, so Tina and Kimball met up, made a contract for the job and signed it on July 15th.
Tina gave Kimball a down payment of nearly $11,000 of a $20,000 project. The down payment was for materials and two-thirds of labor. She asked him to wait a few days before cashing it in. The contract said that Kimball would start the work in three days.
The warning signs started right after they signed the contract. Kimball cashed the check an hour later instead of waiting for a few days as she had asked. Three days after the contract had been signed Kimball didn’t show up as planned and didn’t show up within the following week either. Kimball never returned to Tina’s property after receiving the check for the down payment.
Eventually, two weeks later, Kimball sent a few people to strip Tina’s roof. When they were finished, they asked to be paid but Tina refused and got in touch with Kimball. “I said no, I gave you money. You pay them. I didn’t hire them, you did.”
Tina decided to get in touch with an attorney. The attorney told Tina that the best thing would be to work something out Kimball, because, “the law in Vermont has no teeth.” The attorney told Tina that Kimball would probably not do the work, not give her back her money and that she would have no recourse.
After talking to the lawyer, on August 9th Tina demanded her money back and accounting for everything Kimball had spent on the project. After Tina texted Kimball this, he replied and said he decided to come clean. “I’m going to tell you the truth,” he texted. “The IRS, I owe the IRS $15,000, and they have frozen all my bank accounts.”
Tina called the IRS and asked about this, but they told her they don’t freeze bank accounts. This is when Tina called the cops and told them her situation, The police told her that Kimball also had charges pending in Orange and Montpelier.
Tina decided to go public after she called the cops. “ I started calling every newspaper and every TV station, news station,” she remembers. “I started sending out emails saying ‘anybody wants to do this story?’”
Lots of TV stations and newspaper companies got back in touch with Tina and did stories about what had happened to her, including The Caledonia Record, The Times Argus, VT Digger, Northfield News, and many other small newspapers. After the articles were published other people from all over Vermont started calling the cops because they had been scammed by Kimball as well.
As of January 8th 2020, there had been six court hearings. At the first one, Kimball was charged with contractor fraud and he pleaded innocent. During the second hearing, Kimball was offered a plea deal, which he didn’t take. The third hearing was for obstruction of justice and witness tampering because Kimball had texted Tina threatening to turn her professional board unless she dropped the charges. Tina is a psychologist and Kimball threatened to turn her in, with no basis. Tina couldn’t drop the obstruction of justice charges either because the state was pressing the obstruction of justice charges, not her. At the fifth hearing, Kimball pleaded guilty to his contractor fraud charges, crimes that could give him up to six years in prison. At his sentencing hearing, Washington County Deputy State’s Attorney Malachi Brennan pressed for a two-year jail sentence, whereas Kimball’s lawyers argued for less jail time. Kimball was sentenced to 18 months in prison and will remain on probation until he pays back the people he stole from.
Tina hopes to move back to Maine after she sells her house. She is from Maine and feels that the laws are more protective there and if anything like this were to happen again to her, then justice would be served quicker.
Tina said that she doesn’t expect her to get paid back soon, or even ever since the judge said Kimball was thousands of dollars in debt. “My satisfaction comes from watching him walk out in handcuffs just now,” Tina said, after the hearing which took place on January 3rd, 2020. “Finally he’s going to jail.”
How would you have acted if you were in Tina’s situation?
Kimball did this to help pay for his sister’s funeral to pay for his daughter’s surgery, does that make it less bad?
Kimball was sentenced to 18 months in prison and has to pay back all of the money he stole. Should he get more jail time or is this enough for what he did?