SILVER LAKE — Police have arrested a Silver Lake man and are looking for another suspect in connection to a home improvement fraud that cost a 91-year-old woman tens of thousands of dollars and also left her with work that will need to be redone.
Chester Leroy Hankey, 46, 46 E. Center St., Silver Lake, is charged with exploitation of an endangered adult, a level 6 felony; home improvement fraud, a class A misdemeanor; and home improvement fraud, a level 6 felony. There is also a sentence enhancement home improvement fraud charge, a level 5 felony. The exact crimes are also charged to Robert K. Melton, 10496 S. School Ave., Silver Lake, who is currently wanted by police on a warrant.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, Melton and Hankey, along with a third man, Peter Iceton, who Melton identified as his cousin, were hired to do various projects at the home of an elderly woman in Warsaw in 2017. In several cases, the men charged the woman multiple times, charged extremely high fees for the work, and delivered substandard quality.
Police were alerted to the possibility of a home improvement fraud by a representative from Lake City Bank in October. According to the police report, the victim had spent $39,244 from accounts in two separate banks for work that began in August.
Melton, who police say was doing business as Best Seal Fort Wayne, approached the woman Aug. 8, 2017, about power washing and painting her house. For payment, Melton insisted she write checks to Iceton. He approached her several times and required payment for the same job. Police inspected the work and found paint on the windows, as well as bubbling and streaks on the areas painted.
The victim told police that Melton and his crew were also supposed to cut down two trees and grind the stumps, jobs that were proposed and paid for in September 2017. Police reported that Melton used the same tactic, returning to the woman for payment multiple times until the total for cutting down the trees and grinding stumps reached $10,144. In addition, the woman told police that in the process of cutting down one of the trees, one of the felled trees damaged her roof, which they said they would have to charge her to fix.
The third layer of the scam, according to police, came in the form of installing a garage door, which coincided with the roof repair. For the garage door and roof work in November 2017, the woman paid Melton with two separate checks totaling $8,300 to have the men install the garage door, rail, motor, remotes and wiring on the tracks as well as re-shingling the damaged roof. For the garage door job, police reported that the installation was done incorrectly and the shingles were put on the roof as if done by someone with no experience. The shingles did not overlap.
Hankey was arrested and booked in the Kosciusko County Jail on Sept. 11, on $10,250 surety and cash bond. Melton is still wanted on the same charges.