News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

May 2, 2014

Trial date set for home repair scam

Prosecutors allege man accepted flood relief funds but didn’t complete work

TERRE HAUTE — A September trial date has been set for a Terre Haute contractor accused of accepting United Way funding for home repairs that he never completed.

Lyman Roberts Jr., 42, appeared in Vigo Superior Court 5 on Friday with defense attorney Vernon Lorenz, who told Judge Michael Rader that he felt the case is really a civil matter and not a criminal case.

Deputy Prosecutor Jason Saunders refuted that claim, however, and stated that some additional documents have been received from the United Way of the Wabash Valley since the criminal case was filed, and those documents must be shared with Lorenz.

Judge Rader set a Sept. 9 jury trial date, with an 8 a.m. start time for jury selection.

The trial is scheduled to last four days. Another pretrial conference was set for Aug. 22.

Rader requested that all pre-trial motions in the case be filed before the Aug. 22 hearing. Rader also stated that because the case has been pending since February 2011, he set the criminal trial as a first-place setting before any other cases. Roberts was arrested on a warrant for three class-D felony and four class-A misdemeanor charges of home improvement fraud.

According to a probable cause affidavit, Roberts received $80,700 from the Wabash Valley Disaster Relief Coalition, which had received a $6 million grant from the Lilly Foundation, to be administered by the United Way of the Wabash Valley. The disaster relief coalition was formed following the 2008 floods to provide help to families who were unable to repair their homes because of flood or storm damage. The coalition hired several local contractors, including Roberts Construction, owned by Lyman Roberts.

The affidavit states that Roberts bid on several jobs from Nov. 14, 2009 through April 27, 2010, and was approved for those jobs. Roberts’ bid required that a substantial portion of the total amount be paid in advance. The affidavit states that Roberts finished only two jobs, and left several either unfinished or never started.

Another criminal case is also pending against Roberts. He was accused in 2011 of forging checks on an account held by AMVETS Post 222. Court documents state that allegedly wrote six checks to himself totaling $1,236.40 between Nov. 9, 2009, and March 1, 2010, and he allegedly signed those checks by forging someone’s signature.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.

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