Eco Life owner David Murray charged with 23 counts of fraud
Controversial Sudbury contractor will appear in court July 3rd
June 6, 2019 by John Bleasby
David Murray, owner of Sudbury, Ontario contracting company Eco Life Home Improvements Inc. was arrested and charged with multiple counts of fraud on May 30 by the Greater Sudbury Police Services (GSPS). “There are 20 counts of fraud over $5,000, and three counts of fraud under $5,000,” PC Andy Williams of the GSPS told Canadian Contractor. Williams said that the fraud unit has been working on their investigation of Murray and Eco Life since September 2018, and that their work continues. “The investigation never really closes until it goes to trial,” he said. “As new information becomes available, we need to investigate it. We get that information out to the Crown’s office, which prosecutes on our behalf.” Murray’s first court appearance is scheduled for July 3, 2019. After his arrest last week, Murray was released on a promise to appear.
Murray and Eco Life face dozens of charges and individual investigations
As Canadian Contractor reported last month, Murray was also arrested on April 23, 2019 and charged with theft under $5,000 and trafficking of stolen goods. The property and equipment in question were tools allegedly owned by one of Eco Life’s former sub-trades that went missing and were later located in a pawn shop in the nearby city of North Bay.
In addition, Murray and his company are facing at least 24 small claims actions, some of which have proceeded past the mandatory settlement hearing process. Two weeks ago he was ordered to pay over $30,000 in two separate small claims cases. He is also under investigation by Ontario’s Consumer Protection Office in response to more than 40 complaints. Non-bank lender SNAP Financial has its own investigation, apparently still underway, concerning loans made through Murray and his company to several past customers. The City of Sudbury has revoked Murray’s business licence, and a bailiff’s eviction notice dated April 24 was posted on the door of Eco Life’s rented premises.
Work contracted and never completed has been a regular complaint
One of the 20 charges for fraud over $5,000 concerns work done on the home of Sudbury resident Kevin Frajcz, and is a story similar to many others reported in the Sudbury area.
Murray had previously completed work for Frajcz in 2017, including exterior insulation, siding, window capping, and soffit and fascia work. In March 2018 under a new contract, Murray was to install several replacement windows and a door. “Though the contract was signed on March 16, he backdated it to January 10, supposedly to qualify for GreenOn,” he said. GreenOn was an Ontario consumer energy-efficiency rebate program that was later cancelled in June 2018. “I have bank records which indicate that my eTransfer down payment to Dave Murray was taken out March 16, while the contract was dated January 10,” said Frajcz. “The other work I had contracted to him was paid in full, so there was no other reason I would be giving him money [for the previous work] in 2018.” However, Frajcz’s new window and door replacements were never installed.
In fact, backdating contracts is something to which Murray admitted on record when interviewed in April by Canadian Contractor. “It was to try to make sure that customers got the grant money. I didn’t want them to lose out on the opportunity. I might have been wrong, but my intentions were sincere and good.”
Other irregularities are under investigation
There were also alleged irregularities surrounding Frajcz’s loan arranged by Murray through SNAP Financial Group. One discrepancy was Frajcz’s annual salary as stated on his loan application —$850,000 — an error that went undetected. Frajcz said he never saw the completed application. Fracjz further alleges that Murray submitted an invoice to SNAP for the completed and previously paid for exterior work, in place of an invoice for the window and door replacements. This allowed Murray to receive full payment from SNAP for work that was, in fact, never undertaken. “He arranged his math so that the cost of the siding and insulation contract was exactly the same as the windows and door contract. In this case, both were $11,700.” Frajcz nevertheless had to make 11 monthly payments of $325 to SNAP, until the finance company suspended further loan repayments pending their own internal investigation. All the above allegations have yet to be proven in court.
“It is time the court put a stop to this.”
Angele Poulin and her husband Sean Bazinet also hired Murray’s company last April to install several replacement windows under the GreenOn energy rebate program. As previously reported, the couple paid a deposit that spring of $5,200, representing 50 per cent of the total contract, with installation promised in June or July. Months passed. No windows were ever installed.
“We can’t help but feel relief,” Poulin told Canadian Contractor after hearing the news of Murray’s arrest. “There were definitely times when we felt helpless and defeated. This year has been a learning curve for us. It has taken up quite a bit of our time, a lot of mind space and, quite frankly, I can’t help but feel like we’ve made some headway — a small victory amongst a big battle. I’m still in disbelief that he has done this to us and other innocent victims.”
For Fajcz, like many who have fallen victim to predatory practices, it’s about more than just the money. Sixteen months after signing the unfulfilled contract with EcoLife and David Murray, he feels embarrassed. “I’m still ashamed that I let my guard down and allowed so much of this to happen without much initial suspicion,” he told Canadian Contractor. “It is time the court put a stop to this.”
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