Home improvement fraud accused facing a possible life sentence is arrested again on same charge | Local News

BENNINGTON — A home improvement contractor already convicted of multiple felony offenses and facing a slew of current charges in a long-running series of home improvement rip-offs was arrested once again for the same crimes while out on bail.

On Monday morning, Robert Billings Jr., 50, was arraigned on a new count of home improvement fraud for allegedly receiving advance funds on a pressure tank replacement and never making good on the repair, or returning any of the money.

According to a police affidavit in the latest case, Billings received a check for $2,850 from a resident in Sandgate in mid-August for replacing a busted pressure tank with fittings. The homeowner’s check is shown in bank records to have been cashed by Billings the same day. To date, the replacement and repair has not been completed. Text messages between Billings and the homeowner show a series of broken promises and missed deadlines between the two, with Billings’ communications with the homeowner ending Sept. 10.

Police called Billings a few days later to inform him of a pending arrest. Billings told police he would contact them when he was in town after finishing a job in Milton. The police never received a call or email from Billings after that first contact. Several law enforcement agencies, including the Bennington Police Department and the Winhall Police Department, were also looking for Billings on separate home improvement fraud allegations for which he had not yet been charged, but could not locate him. An arrest warrant was issued, and Billings was picked up over the weekend.

Billings is currently facing a possible life sentence as a habitual offender in a separate case for allegedly defrauding a Bennington homeowner out of $8,000.

According to a police affidavit in that case, Billings charged a Bennington homeowner $8,300 for working on his broken furnace. The victim told police he hired Billings in November 2021 to fix the coil of his furnace, giving Billings an initial $800 check. Billings had the homeowner write the check payable to Billings’ wife because “he didn’t have a checking account.”

According to the affidavit, Billings never installed the coil and never returned the money. Instead, he told the homeowner that the entire furnace needed to be replaced and asked for a $7,500 deposit a month later. That check was also made out to Billings’ wife.

For the past year-and-a-half, the homeowner told police he’s been after Billings to install the unit, which never happened. After waiting, the homeowner eventually hired another plumber who informed him that his furnace did not need to be replaced. When police investigated the incident and met with Billings, he stated that he’d been injured and could not complete the work. When police inquired why he didn’t return the money, Billing told them, “He (the homeowner) never asked.”

Billings has several felony convictions for home improvement fraud or loss on his criminal record here in Vermont, along with two failures to post bond. He also has eight failures to appear. Under Vermont law, a person convicted of three or more felonies can be charged as a habitual offender – allowing the possibility of a life sentence if further convicted.

A preliminary search online revealed an F-rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) ​​for a company called 4th Gen, a Bennington plumbing business associated with Billings’ name with the same listed address as on court records. Several complaints recite familiar circumstances, including up-front monies taken with no work done and none returned, and work being cited that was not needed.

A court records search did not turn up any past cases of a home improvement contractor ever facing a life sentence on home improvement fraud charges here in Vermont. No further hearings are currently scheduled in the case. Charges from the Bennington PD and the Winhall PD have yet to be filed.

Billings was released on just three conditions after his latest arrest – he must come to court when told to, give his attorney his address and telephone number, and he is to have no contact with the homeowner.