Local contractor accused of taking more than $200K from victims

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Over the last several months, Western Mass News has spoke to almost a dozen people who say they have fallen victim.

The contractor goes by the name Joe Dias and is currently unlicensed according to the State's Division of Professional Licensure.

More than $200,000 is owed to people living right here in western Massachusetts because they hired a man who goes by Joe Dias.

Western Mass News obtained receipts, police reports, formal complaints written to the Attorney General's Office and documentation showing agreements and transactions made between homeowners or business owners and Dias. It all began when Edite Fragoso Sheldon told us about her contractor's mysterious disappearance.

Documents show she paid him thousands in cash when he stopped answering her calls and texts, leaving Sheldon's 83-year-old mother's home with an unfinished and unusable bathroom.

Months later, many more victims reached out, including Diane Lavignes hired Dias to do work on their home.

"In the family room we needed a lot of work done on the ceiling, the walls needed repainting and a new rug put in," said Lavignes. Lavignes said her neighbors recommended Dias after using him for a small project.

She hired Dias in November with the expectation he'd begin work after Christmas and by late January, the work began, and so did the payments. "It was always he was finding a little bit more. More work needed to be done in the ceiling here, I need another payment," Lavignes added. Despite that, everything seemed to be working out. By the last week of March, the Lavignes had given Dias more than $8,000.

They told him they were hosting Easter and wanted the family room done by the end of that week, and then his responses became even more sporadic than usual, so she googled his name

Christopher Crogan said he planned to go into business with Dias for a Kung Fu studio in Holyoke. "He said, to show good faith, I want $2,000 from you right now. I said, no, I don't have anything on paper," said Crogan. Crogan said he ended up giving Dias a thousand dollars. "He's a scam artist. He needs to stop taking people's money," Crogan added. The building owner, Dmitry Zhivotovsky, said he leased it to Dias for $13,000 a month. "he started delaying his payments, his checks were coming back. By September he owed me $100,000 altogether," said Zhivotovsky. He said there are people illegally living in this commercial building because Dias rented office spaces to them as residential units. "Just a disaster. Mattress on the floor, clothes all over the places, it's an office building," Zhivotovsky noted. When Brandon Lubanski, owner of Lubanski Construction, learned about this story, he contacted Western Mass News, too, wanting to help the homeowners.

He said his reasoning for wanting to help people like the Lavignes is simple. Over the past four months, we've been asking the Attorney General's Office about this.

As of this broadcast, they have not confirmed an investigation.

The Springfield Police Department, however, is working on the case. "Seeing the story on Western Mass News, one of our detectives tied it in that this person was doing this in different areas throughout Hampshire County and Hampden County. So there's now been an incident report in Springfield, and our detectives are really looking to get any other information from any of the victims that may have encountered this person so they can help identify him," said Ryan Walsh, Spokesperson for Springfield police. Walsh said right now the matter remains civil because it's a contract between two people.

Western Mass News knows of at least six consumer complaints filed with the Attorney General's Office regarding Dias and his companies.

Western Mass News has spoken to Dias over the phone a few times but have not gotten an answer about his plans.

Before this story aired, we called and texted Dias dozens of times on both of his phone numbers, but he did not respond.

One time, a woman called and said Joe would be 'out of reach for weeks' while he dealt with private matters.

Copyright 2018 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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