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Thursday, March 30, 2023

Contractor Charged With Theft in St. Paul Housing Development

New accusations have been made against a former residential building contractor who is accused of stealing more than $1 million from a nonprofit developer of affordable housing in St. Paul.

This Monday, prosecutors filed charges against Gary Charles Findell, alleging that he signed a contract to build a house in Door County, Wisconsin, with a couple just days after being questioned by law authorities about money problems at a housing project. Their lawyer claims that they suffered a loss of close to $300,000 to Findell.

Six charges of theft by fraud are levied against Findell in connection with both instances. He entered a not guilty plea to the original allegations, and the new counts will be heard in court the following month. Requests for response from Findell’s lawyer and other parties were not answered.

In criminal complaints, the Ramsey County Attorney’s office asserts the following:

Findell, 66, was the previous owner of Design Construction LLC, a general contractor for a single-family house development project that Dayton’s Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services undertook. Findell’s business was contracted to build nine modular, solar-powered homes as part of the Village on Rivoli development.

After learning that Findell had fraudulently signed more than 20 lien waivers for project-related subcontractors and then failed to pay them, law enforcement opened an investigation. Two of the nine homes were finished, but further work was halted because the subcontractors took back the majority of the supplies.

Findell admitted using project funding to pay off other debts when he was questioned by law authorities in May 2021.

Additionally in May 2021, Findell signed the contract to construct the Wisconsin home for the couple under NeuHus LLC, a different business he owned.

Three days later, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry suspended Findell’s registration as a state builder as well as the permits for two of his businesses and levied a $250,000 fine.

In the Village on Rivoli project, prosecutors accused Findell with four counts of theft by deception in September.

Before that, Tom and Krista Gardiner paid Findell hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Wisconsin house. They reside in Florida, while Krista’s family comes from Door County’s Washington Island.

Tom Gardiner said on Wednesday, “She had been going up there every summer since she was a child and we’ve been taking our kids up there, so that’s kind of our particular place.”

When they first began working with Findell, he failed to disclose to them that “NeuHus did not hold the required licensure to perform residential construction work in Wisconsin, that he had incurred significant amounts of debt and legal liabilities, that he was about to and quickly did lose his licensure to act as a contractor in Minnesota, and that he did not have sufficient funds to pay the vendors and subcontractors for the construction of their home,” according to the complaint.

When Tom Gardiner learned that Findell had been accused of stealing in St. Paul, he claimed to have previously paid Findell around $500,000. According to Gardiner, Findell had begun putting the hut together after clearing the ground and buying some supplies.

But according to Gardiner, there was around $300,000 that Findell couldn’t account for when he said he was requested to “reconcile everything.” I requested him to refund the money, but he kept coming up with excuses and never did.

Construction has continued after hiring a different builder who “picked up where Gary left off,” according to Gardiner.

Nicolle Goodman, the city’s director of planning and economic development, expressed hope on Wednesday that the St. Paul development “project will come to completion.” According to the lawsuit, the two dwellings that were first put together had to be reconstructed.

It has continued to advance, and we want to carefully navigate the special conditions to guarantee completion for the benefit of the inhabitants of St. Paul, according to Goodman. The first two homes are almost finished, and work will likely start on the remaining seven before the year is over.

Cedric Blackwater
Cedric Blackwater
Cedric is a journalist with over a decade of experience reporting on local US news, and touching on many global topics. He is currently the lead writer for Bulletin News.

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