Man accused of driveway scam

Smith

A Missouri man is behind bars after local authorities say he tried scamming a Melbourne man out of thousands of dollars in relationship to driveway construction job.

Jeffrey Alan Smith, 50, of Columbia, Mo., made his initial court appearance Monday in Marshall County District Court on charges of ongoing criminal conduct and first-degree theft.

According to a complaint filed by the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office, the Melbourne man contacted authorities back on June 16 saying he had contracted with Smith to asphalt two of his driveways.

The man told authorities that Smith wanted and obtained payment up front in three checks of $9,000 totaling $27,000 (the sheriff’s investigator noted that this may have been requested in an effort to avoid reporting the money to the Internal Revenue Service).

Before the asphalt job was completed, however, Smith allegedly told the man his company had overcharged him in the amount of $14,500 and that he would be receiving his refund from the “home office” but to “initiate this payment” the man needed to write him another check totaling $8,000. The man refused to pay and Smith and his company did not return to finish the driveway.

The man gave authorities a business invoice receipt with a company name, “Driveway Construction & Maintenance,” but it did not detail a company address, rather just a cell phone that when called was not answered.

The investigator’s complaint noted that the asphalt work “accomplished was observed, photographed and measured. It is obviously overcharged in the thousands of dollars and is a case of elder abuse by financial exploitation.”

Smith’s business, the complaint cited, is not a registered business entity with the Iowa Secretary of State’s office.

Smith was identified later by authorities when cashing the checks in both Indianola and Urbandale. At the same time, it was reported that the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office had received three similar complaints of the asphalt scam about a week prior.

Warrants were issued with the Melbourne case as well as the Jasper County cases, but it wasn’t until this past week that Smith was brought to Marshall County to be formally charged.

Marshall County Sheriff Steve Hoffman said told the Times-Republican that while a warrant had been issued statewide and later to surrounding states, including Missouri, attempts to make contact with Smith proved unsuccessful.

That was until the warrant was expanded nationwide and authorities learned Smith had been arrested in Colorado, where he was eventually extradited back to Iowa.

Hoffman said, unfortunately, cases like these are all too familiar to local law enforcement and the Melbourne case is a cautionary tale for homeowners looking for home repair and construction work.

“This is just another example, where residents need to do their due diligence in checking references,” Hoffman said, adding the refund request was clearly a “red flag.”

However, the sheriff conceded that Smith’s operation did not appear to be a “fly-by-night operation.

“He had professional-looking equipment, dump trucks, things appeared, at least on the surface, to be legitimate.”

Smith’s next court appearance — a preliminary hearing — is set for 1 p.m. Dec. 13.

He currently is being held in the Marshall County Jail on a $25,000 cash-only bond.

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Contact Jeff Hutton at 641-753-6611 or jhutton@timesrepublican.com