TOMS RIVER – A Lacey man has pleaded guilty to gambling away more than $40,000 given to him for home remodeling work and spent another $30,000 on personal items he purchased that were intended to be used on the same job, announced Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer on Monday.
Jeffrey Crawford, 50, faces up to three years in state prison and is expected to be ordered to pay the $70,000 in restitution to the victim, whose home also sustained extensive damage as a result of Crawford’s negligence, according to the Prosecutor’s Office.
The Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs contacted the Toms River Police Department in May 2021 in response to a complaint about Crawford, who was operating a business at the time called Hercules Renovations LLC, the statement said.
Police investigated Crawford over a contract he entered into in September 2020 to remodel the first floor of the victim’s residence, for which the homeowner gave Crawford a down payment of $115,000. While Crawford sporadically performed some work on the property, he abandoned the job in March 2021, leaving behind damage to the house, the Prosecutor’s Office said.
The investigation determined that a significant amount of the money given to Crawford for the project was used for his own personal benefit rather than for completion of the project. Specifically, Crawford spent more than $40,000 on gaming activity in Atlantic City and about $30,000 on other personal expenses. In total, Crawford misappropriated about $70,000 of the payments made to him so he could be able to do the renovations, according to the statement.
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On Oct. 14, 2021, Crawford was arrested at Toms River Police Headquarters before he was released on a summons pending the outcome of the case in state Superior Court in Toms River.
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He has since pleaded guilty to theft by failure to make required disposition of property before state Superior Court Judge Dina M. Vicari in Toms River. Crawford is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 12.
Senior Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Heisler is handling the case on behalf of the state of New Jersey.
Contact Asbury Park Press reporter Erik Larsen at [email protected].