Bucks County authorities allege Shawn Nicola – AKA Shawn Gerety — ripped off homeowners in Bucks, Montgomery, Chester and Delaware counties in 2014 and 2015.
A Lancaster County contractor faces nearly two dozen felonies for allegedly committing more than a half-million dollars in home improvement fraud in Bucks and surrounding counties in 2014 and 2015.
Warrington police and Bucks County Detectives allege Shawn Nicola, 48, of Strasburg, formerly known as Shawn Gerety, ripped off at least nine homeowners including two in Bucks County and one in Abington Township, Montgomery County.
Nicola, the owner and operator of Build TREND LLC, is also accused of defrauding a homeowner in Lower Merion, Montgomery County, three in Delaware County and two in Chester County.
Warrington police opened an investigation into Nicola, then known as Gerety, in September 2015, after a homeowner there alleged that the contractor accepted $163,000 in payments toward a project, but completed little or no work before he abandoned it, according to a probable cause affidavit.
The couple told police they found Nicola’s company on an online home improvement referral service and hired him in March 2015 to build a second-floor addition with basement and renovate a bathroom.
Three months into the project, the estimated cost had increased by roughly $40,000, but little work had been done, according to the affidavit.
Nicola stopped returning calls, took down his company website and filed for bankruptcy in September 2015, court documents allege.
The couple allege they ended up paying another $72,664 to finish the job.
In their investigation, authorities found Nicola had several companies registered as home improvement contractors with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office.
Since 2009, Pennsylvania has required all home improvement contractors that perform at least $5,000 in work annually in the state to register with the state.
BuildTREND Construction was registered with the state in 2010; BuildTREND Investments was registered in 2015. TIG Construction, a third business associated with Gerety/Nicola, was registered in 2015 as well, according to authorities.
There was no listing under BuildTREND LLC, Shawn Nicola or Shawn Gerety on the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office contractor registration website as of Friday.
Investigators learned that Nicola had multiple civil judgments against him as early as 2014 and he filed for bankruptcy in 1995 and 2010, but did not included any of that information on his contractor registration application as required under the law.
His local victims included Doylestown residents who hired BuildTREND in February 2015 to expand the second story of their home and demolish an existing attached garage for $148,000.
The homeowners, who claim they gave Nicola $87,871 in advanced payments, told investigators they estimate Nicola’s employees did three days of work between May and July, mostly demolishing the garage, kitchen and staircase.
In September, 2015, the project manager and a subcontractor told them that BuildTREND was filing for bankruptcy.
The couple claim they paid another contractor nearly $68,000 to complete the project, court documents said.
The Abington homeowner alleges Nicola did no work after she paid him a $46,454 deposit in February 2015 on a roughly $100,000 project to build a second floor addition and remodel a basement and bathroom, according to authorities.
When the homeowner asked Nicola for a refund, he told her he could let his company continue the project or get a partial refund of $18,000, according to court documents.
Authorities said that most recently Nicola pleaded guilty in 2017 to home improvement fraud in New Castle County, Delaware, and received a two-year suspended sentence.
The next year, he filed to change his name to Nicola with the U.S. Embassy in London, court documents said.
Nicola faces 20 felony counts including theft by deception, deceptive business practices and attempting to receive advance payment for services and failing to perform.
His preliminary hearing for next month before district Judge Jean Seaman.
He remains free on $100,000 unsecured bail with a condition he not perform any business in Pennsylvania.