A contractor in Galveston County, Texas, who stole from more than 30 individuals, including two World War II veterans, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison on Tuesday.
John James Thomas, just days before his trial, admitted his guilt in front of Judge Kerry Neves at Galveston County District Court. The Galveston County District Attorney’s Office revealed that Thomas had been involved in a construction fraud scheme, defrauding more than 30 victims. As a result, he received a 10-year sentence for two counts of aggregated theft.
According to a statement from the district attorney’s office, this contractor’s actions and behavior went beyond the typical civil lawsuits that arise from contractor disputes. The continuous course of conduct and pattern of behavior, particularly targeting elderly victims, elevated the severity to a first-degree felony level.
The Galveston County District Attorney’s Office initiated an investigation in 2019 following reports from elderly victims, who bravely came forward. It became evident that Thomas had engaged in a consistent pattern of criminal behavior.
According to officials, Thomas deceived the victims by pretending to be a reputable custom home builder and contractor. He would offer lower bids than his competitors, but in truth, he had no intention of finishing the projects. As a result, he managed to swindle over $100,000 from elderly individuals who trusted him.
The district attorney’s office revealed that instead of completing the agreed-upon work on homes throughout Galveston County, he chose to squander thousands of dollars at a casino in Louisiana.
During the investigation, the D.A. subpoenaed various records including bank records, casino records, Venmo records, Zelle records, and more. Investigator Ernest Robles and Fraud Examiner played a crucial role in collecting these records. The analysis of the extensive records revealed a clear pattern of behavior. As former Fraud Examiner Courtney Hebert stated, “John Thomas never kept his promise.” It was discovered that Thomas not only took money from victims for services he never delivered, such as windows, but he also used banking apps to request funds while at the casino. Additionally, he falsely charged his victims for permits that were never obtained and claimed payment for mold restoration even when there was no mold present.
Thomas typically began his thefts by actively communicating with his victims and demonstrating the progress of his work, particularly in demolition projects, to gain their trust and elicit more money and additional projects. However, once he obtained the funds, Thomas would eventually come up with excuses and abandon the projects. He targeted numerous retired individuals, including elderly World War II veterans aged 93 and 98, among many other victims in Galveston County.
In 2019, the Galveston County Grand Jury initially indicted Thomas. He was able to post bail but proceeded to engage in further fraudulent activities, leading to a subsequent charge in 2021. This time, he was charged with third-degree felony aggregated theft, which involved multiple victims of various ages. Recognizing the severity of the situation, the court decided to revoke Thomas’ bond, resulting in his incarceration while awaiting trial for both cases. Assistant District Attorneys Hilary Miller and Michael Rinehart were responsible for prosecuting Thomas. It is worth noting that Thomas is also facing pending criminal theft cases in neighboring counties, employing the same modus operandi.
Chief ADA Miller expressed gratitude for the collaborative efforts of law enforcement officers, fraud investigators, and victims in holding Thomas accountable for contractor fraud. He acknowledged the prevalence of such fraud in society and the challenges in proving it.
Rinehart added, “John Thomas has come to realize that his actions carry consequences, and now he finds himself facing the reality of prison.”