It all started with a Craigslist ad.
That’s how Sari Brown, a Newton business owner, says she first got in touch with a contractor named James F. McCarthy in 2011. She needed someone to work on her newly leased store, and McCarthy assured her that he was licensed and insured.
After meeting with McCarthy in July 2011, Brown agreed to pay him $20,000 to do the work.
But the project soon turned into a nightmare, Brown says. She told police in Groveland, where McCarthy ran his business, that he had hired his laborers through Craigslist, they were not licensed, and some showed up for work under the influence of alcohol and drugs. She also said that the crew began harassing her after reportedly not being paid by McCarthy, that he had provided her with fraudulent insurance documents, and that when she fired him, he refused to leave.
Brown is one of more than a dozen people cited in police reports as saying they had been scammed by McCarthy.
The 52-year-old contractor, who has worked at sites all over Greater Boston, is accused of swindling hundreds of thousands of dollars from his clients, employees, landlord, former wife, and even his cancer-stricken daughter, authorities say.
He is being held at the Essex County House of Correction in Middleton after pleading not guilty to 110 charges ranging from larceny to identity theft, and is due back in Haverhill District Court on Thursday.
The reports filed at the court detail a litany of complaints against McCarthy.
Thomas Sullivan, 54, of West Bridgewater, told police that McCarthy hired him to work on construction jobs in Woburn and Winchester in October 2011. He said he completed the work with his own tools and equipment, billed McCarthy, and waited to get paid. Sullivan told police that whenever he made an appointment to meet with him, McCarthy would not show up.
He said he eventually received a check for $3,200 from McCarthy. The amount was short by a few hundred dollars, but that hardly mattered: Sullivan told police he couldn’t cash the check because McCarthy’s account had insufficient funds.
It’s a similar tale told by carpenters and laborers hired by McCarthy to work on homes at other sites. In interviews with the Globe, several workers said they received little or no pay after toiling at his job sites, and were given paychecks that bounced.
McCarthy’s lawyer, Scott F. Gleason of Haverhill, did not return a call seeking comment. In an interview days before his arrest by Groveland police on July 14, McCarthy acknowledged he was late paying some people who worked for him.
McCarthy said he was owed money from several jobs that his company had worked on, and said “everybody will be paid once we’re paid.”
But employees weren’t the only ones accusing McCarthy of cheating them.
Greg R. Doyle, president of Doyle Lumber Co. in Andover, told police he’d known McCarthy since his youth, and when McCarthy showed up at his business last year to buy supplies, Doyle was reluctant because McCarthy owed him money. However, according a police report, Doyle said that when McCarthy told him about his daughter’s death, he felt bad for him and decided to do business with him one more time.
It’s a decision he regrets: Doyle told police McCarthy wrote three checks that bounced, and his account was assessed bank fees as well.
When Doyle sent an employee to McCarthy’s home in Groveland last October to seek payment, a man fitting McCarthy’s description answered the door and said, “McCarthy does not live here and never did.”
Doyle said he decided to return to the house with the employee. This time, he ducked down inside his vehicle while the employee spoke with the man at the door, whom Doyle told police he recognized as McCarthy. Doyle said he overheard the man say: “I told you McCarthy does not live here, he never did, and I am sick of people coming here to try to collect money; get off my property and don’t come back.”
At this point, according to the police report, Doyle got out of his vehicle and confronted McCarthy about the debt. He left without the $41,810 that he says McCarthy still owes Doyle Lumber for purchases made between 2008 and last year.
McCarthy has several other outstanding debts, according to the police reports filed with the court. His former wife, Lisette McCarthy of Tewksbury, told police he owes her $99,000 in back child support and alimony. She also told police that their 17-year-old daughter died from cancer in January 2010, and that while she was sick McCarthy rarely visited her in the hospital but intercepted $5,000 in donations that friends had raised for her — an allegation that Groveland Deputy Chief Jeffrey T. Gillen called “pretty disturbing.”
Paula Delaflor, a 74-year-old Foxborough resident, rented her vacant gas station at 301 Main St. in Groveland to McCarthy in September 2011. Delaflor later told police that McCarthy based his business and stored equipment there for months without paying rent, and refused to leave. She said McCarthy owes her $18,463 in rent, storage costs, and legal fees that she had to pay to evict him in February. McCarthy didn’t leave the property until May, according to police.
In other police reports filed at Haverhill District Court:
Bala Balachander, 40, of Lexington, told police he hired McCarthy for a home remodeling project in March 2012, and lost $27,500 as a result of shoddy and uncompleted work. He also alleges McCarthy took $4,459 from his checking account.
Richard Tan of Winchester said he hired McCarthy to do work on his home last year. In April 2012, Tan planned to travel to Asia, so he paid McCarthy in advance to finish the project, and agreed to let McCarthy use his credit card to buy materials to build a deck. He later discovered that McCarthy used his credit card to make 18 purchases totaling $25,619 without his authorization. McCarthy admitted to making the charges, and wrote Tan a check for $15,790. The check bounced due to insufficient funds, Tan said.
Bay State Water Works Supply Inc. of Littleton reported that when McCarthy purchased materials last year he tried to pay with bad checks. The two checks he wrote for $1,026 in August and September of 2012 were from closed bank accounts.
McCarthy hired a Wayland man to do excavating work in Lunenburg last year and allegedly failed to pay him $15,000. In September, McCarthy sent him a check for $7,500. The check was no good: The account was closed.
The Haverhill harbor master says McCarthy owes $2,661 for six seasons of storage, winterizing, and repairs for a boat he keeps in a city marina.
The investigation into the allegations against McCarthy is ongoing, said Gillen.
“There’s more to come, I believe,” he said. “We are hoping that he is prosecuted and he’s held responsible for each and every victim he’s stolen from.”
While McCarthy told the Globe he lives in Portsmouth, N.H., Groveland police say that he has lived at his girlfriend’s home in their town for the past three years, and that he has used several company names for the business he ran from there. Police say they responded to the house a number of times after McCarthy’s employees showed up there looking to collect wages they were owed. The house is also where McCarthy was arrested on July 14.
According to the Groveland police report, at 8:57 that morning, Detective Jim Morton saw McCarthy behind the wheel of a 2006 green Toyota Sienna minivan pulling away from the house. McCarthy spotted the cruiser and started backing up into the driveway, the report said, and Morton, with a warrant for McCarthy’s arrest and aware that his license had been revoked, pulled his vehicle into the driveway as well. McCarthy got out of the minivan and tried to escape into the house, but Morton ordered McCarthy to stop and then handcuffed him.
According to Morton’s report, McCarthy said he knew his license was revoked, and added: “But Jim, I was only driving to the mailbox at the end of my driveway — I wasn’t driving on the street.”
In addition to the multiple counts on the arrest warrant, McCarthy was charged with operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license.
It was the 10th time that McCarthy had been charged with the offense, police said.