KIRKLAND, Wash. - The FBI is now taking over the case of the Kirkland builder who victims accuse of stealing millions.
The first victim came forward earlier this month, filing a report with the Kirkland police, accusing the builder of bailing on their remodel contract and forging documents.
The builder was arrested, then released on his own personal recognizance, which, according to Kirkland police, is standard protocol. The builder has not been charged.
It was only after news of the builder’s arrest spread that victims from all over the region went to the police with similar claims.
Sgt. Ryan Abbott with the King County Sheriff’s Office says they have now turned the investigation over to the feds and the victim count is now up to 50.
“We have more and more people calling every day and it’s continuing,” Abbott said. “People are still calling being victims or possible victims from the same contractor. So we continue to take reports and we’re continuing to pass on the information to the FBI for their investigation.”
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One of the victims had $27,000 deposit credited back to her account from her bank, but University of Washington law professor Craig Allen says that was a lucky break.
“The fact that either federal or state law enforcement may be involved in investigating it could delay any sort of civil remedy for the victims in the case,” Allen said.
Professor Allen says he is not involved in the case, but as a professor of law weighing in from afar, if the builder doesn’t have assets, it’ll be hard for the victims to get their money back.
“I hear so many cases like this,” Allen said. “I’ve long said that the state bonding requirement in the State of Washington for a general contractor is just absurd. Twelve thousand dollars the last time I looked. They’ll come in, they’ll tear out your kitchen, and they disappear for months. Twelve thousand dollars doesn’t begin to cover something like that and if the bond is your only sure basis for recovery, that’s just not going to help.”
The builder could face serious jail time.
“You’ve probably got fraud,” Allen said. “The mail and the wires were probably used. You probably have evidence of a federal crime. Every time you use it, it’s a separate count. And so I’d be thinking the U.S. Attorney and the FBI might well be looking at that for prosecution. You know those are five-year, 10-year sentences per count, so it gets pretty serious, pretty quick.”
Professor Allen says this case is so egregious that it might finally make the State of Washington get serious about increasing the state’s bonding requirement.
No word yet on when the FBI will make an arrest.
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