By Liz Shepherd
WARSAW — A Silver Lake man received a 2 1/2 year prison sentence in connection to a home improvement fraud that cost an elderly woman tens of thousands of dollars.
Robert Kenneth Melton, 32, 46 E. Center St., Silver Lake, was charged with home improvement fraud, a level 5 felony; and failure to appear, a level 6 felony. Two additional charges of home improvement fraud and exploitation of an endangered adult charge were dismissed as part of a plea agreement.
Melton was sentenced in Kosciusko Superior Court 1 on Thursday, April 23.
Two other Silver Lake men also face criminal charges in this case. Chester Leroy Hankey, 48, has a jury trial scheduled in this matter on June 23. Peter Jeffery Iseton, 40, has a pretrial conference on May 4.
On Oct. 24, 2017, a Kosciusko County Sheriff’s officer met with a Lake City Bank representative who wanted to report a home improvement fraud. The representative said an elderly woman, who is a bank customer, had written checks for large amounts of money for minor construction to her residence. The checks were written to Melton, Hankey and Iseton.
On Nov. 13, 2017, the officer spoke to the woman. According to court documents, the woman said that Melton was recently at the residence to replace a garage door opener and charged her $4,600. She provided the officer with two work statements about the replacement. The work statements showed the woman was charged $8,300 for a garage door opener and the installation of half of a bundle of shingles. The shingles were installed incorrectly and did not overlap on the roof.
On Aug. 8, 2017, Melton charged the woman $1,200 for pressure washing her residence. He had her write the check to Iseton. Melton came back to the residence on Aug. 11, 2017, and said the woman still needed to pay him for power washing the residence. The woman paid for the power washing work twice, resulting in a loss of $2,400.
Melton was also supposed to cut two trees and grind both the stumps. In total, he charged the woman $10,144 for the tree work. The woman also said one of the cut trees fell on the roof and that the men charged her for fixing the roof.
The total amount paid to Melton, Iseton and Hankey for the work done was $39,244.
During court proceedings, Defense Attorney Jordan Tandy asked Melton several questions about the case, including the type of work done at the woman’s residence. Melton said that with the projects, the woman would typically request more jobs be done at her residence after a project was finished. He also acknowledged that some projects hadn’t been completed. Tandy also asked Melton if the woman had ever shown any displeasure with the work that was finished. Melton said she never did.
In cross-examination, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Brad Voelz asked Melton if he, Hankey and Iseton ever charged the woman for roof repair work after a tree they cut down fell on her residence. Melton said they did not charge the woman for that. Voelz also mentioned Melton’s prior criminal history, which includes a home improvement fraud case, as well as false informing incidents.
“It’s been 28 months since you were charged with this and you haven’t paid a dime in restitution,” said Judge David Cates.
For home improvement fraud, Cates sentenced Melton to 3 1/2 years in the Indiana Department of Correction. For failure to appear, Melton received a 1 1/2 year DoC sentence. Both counts will be served consecutively. Two and a half years of the sentence was suspended on probation. Cates said he had no objection to Melton serving the sentence through work release if he is approved for the program.
Melton must also pay $21,791.02 in restitution and is to have no contact with the woman in this case.