Former Calgary TV renovation personality faces jailCanadian Contractor
Bruce Hopkins went bankrupt, taking $5 million of clients’ money with him
Alberta has specific regulations for contractors who accept deposits for their work. Failing to meet those requirements will likely land Bruce Hopkins, 54, star of a now-defunct local renovation program Remodel IT!, in the joint. According to local media, Hopkins company The Remodelers entered into dozens of faulty contracts and originally faced over 180 charges under the province’s Fair Trading Act in 2016. Hopkins pleaded guilty this past week to 22 of the original charges.
Denial, denial, then a plead of guilty
Shortly after charges were laid, Hopkins made a statement suggesting that Service Alberta was rushing to judgement in order to give the public a perception of responsiveness. “We are prepared to vigorously defend ourselves on these charges,” he said.
Service Alberta launched an investigation in 2016. Over 25 former customers filed complaints that he left incomplete work for which he had been prepaid, leaving over 20 of those homeowners out about $5 million without much recourse for repayment. Although the Crown prosecutors say they will attempt restitution for the losses, it is believed that Hopkins will be unable to repay his customers and will therefore likely spend up to two years cooling his heels in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 12, 2017.
“Hopefully that will provide some general deterrence for others to understand that if you’re going to work in this area, they need to know the rules and follow them,” prosecutor Tony Bell told local media. “With the guilty plea being entered, it shows the accused has shown some remorse for his actions.”
A history fraud going back years
Hopkins’ troubles go back three years when The Remodelers went bankrupt. An auction of corporate assets was held in October 2014. However, hopes that sufficient money would be raised to cover losses and claims from past clients were dashed when the auction netted less than $100,000 of the $3 million claimed at the time. It was also learned that Hopkins had received his contractor’s licence from Service Alberta despite having a previous conviction for fraud. Annual criminal background checks are supposed to catch such past activity. However a spokesperson for Service Alberta, while declining to comment on any specifics, said that a past criminal conviction would not necessarily prevent a licence from being issued or renewed.
In our coverage back in 2015, Canadian Contractor reported Hopkins’ rise from homelessness and drug addiction to new-found status as a minor local celebrity.“He was homeless. A friend gave him a job fixing up houses,” the narrator of one Season 3 Remodel IT episode says. “He got pretty good at it. He went from needing help to helping people.”
In promotional articles published on the internet during Hopkins’ heyday around 2012, Remodel IT! was referred to as “a reality-based television program that follows a hard-working Calgary-based renovation company. The show draws reno-savvy, reno-dreamers, and reno-doers as they watch the Remodelers work their way through projects from design to completion. The show is hosted by local, Bruce Hopkins, an inspiring entrepreneur.” The showed aired in both Calgary and Edmonton.
In Alberta, if you take deposits, you must be licensed
Service Alberta’s web site explains that under provincial law, “There are special rules for contractors who accept money before work is complete and discuss or finalize a contract away from their normal place of business (i.e., your home). These contractors are considered prepaid contractors. They must be licensed by Service Alberta and post a security.” Homeowners are provided with detailed tips on how to avoid disreputable contractors by viewing the Service Alberta tip sheet. They can also search for licensed contractors through the Service Alberta registry site.
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