JOHNSON COUNTY, Ind. – A man accused of swindling a 71-year-old woman out of $15,000 now faces home improvement fraud charges for the fourth time since 2004.
The Johnson County Prosecutor’s Office this month filed felony counts of theft and home improvement fraud against John Park, 53, of Franklin.
The charges came after 71-year-old Virginia Smith told Greenwood police she gave Park two payments of $7,500 last summer for a new pool in her backyard. But several months later, she says the pool was never delivered or installed.
“I said what about my pool, and he said I’ll get it in, I promise you, I’ll get it in,” Smith said. “But it was always a promise and nothing to show for it.”
In March this year, Smith reported the situation to Greenwood police and was later told she was the victim of home improvement fraud.
“Highly upset, I really was,” Smith said. “To think that somebody would take an elderly person for that type of money, you know.”
“He just struck me as okay, but he’s not,” Smith said. “He’s a crook.”
Investigators say they eventually located Park in a Louisiana jail facing unrelated charges. A local warrant was issued for Park and he was brought back to Johnson County to be charged in Smith’s case.
Court records show this is the fourth time John Park has been charged in home improvement fraud cases. Similar charges were filed against him in 2004, 2006 and 2008. The 2008 case resulted in a guilty plea and a sentence of one year in prison and two years of probation. Park was also convicted of three counts of theft in Hancock County.
Deputy Prosecutor Joe Villanueva says if Park is convicted again, he will seek to have Park ordered to repay Smith’s money. However, Villanueva says Park is already accused of failing to repay some of his prior victims.
“They don’t always get the money that they’ve paid out,” Villanueva said. “Some of these homeowners are just going to be out that forever.”
Villanueva says Smith could also have the option of filing a civil lawsuit against Park in order to recoup her money.
Smith doesn’t know if she’ll ever see her $15,000 again. But she still hopes to get a pool at some point. She says she’s had three strokes since this all happened and she could use the pool for her physical therapy.
“I really would love to have one, but now I don’t know if I can afford it,” Smith said. “I have to wait a while.”