The law under which local builder David White faces two felonies might lend itself to a defense that missing accounting figures in a $300,000 home building project were a simple mistake, a prosecutor told a Schenectady County Court Jury Tuesday.
But, Peter Willis told the jury, if anyone was familiar with state lien law rules, it was White, who was prosecuted under the same statute 12 years ago.
“There is no way he didn’t know that spending money on a different job was wrong, or that spending money on a different job wasn’t a larceny,” Willis told the jury.
White is standing trial on one count each of second-degree grand larceny and first-degree scheme to defraud, both felonies.
He is accused of diverting $70,000 from a home building project for Stephen and Mary Lolik.
The Loliks hired White to build a new home for them on Snake Hill Road in Glenville in 2008. The original contract was for $278,000, but that increased to $317,000 and then inexplicably increased to $393,000.
The Loliks stopped paying at $317,000, Willis said, because they were given no accounting of where the money went. In the meantime, White failed to pay subcontractors for an estimated $70,000 in work.
White either diverted the money to other projects, which is illegal, Willis said, or they simply don’t know what happened to it. Failing to keep records, Willis told the jury, is presumptive evidence that money was diverted.
White’s actions, Willis told the jury, turned the Lolik’s dream home into a nightmare.
White’s attorney Mark Mischler, however, countered that if anyone was going through a nightmare, it was his client.
The case comes down to two questions, Mischler told the jury, whether White diverted funds and whether he intended to steal or defraud.
“The evidence will show Mr. White legitimately spent more money on construction of their new home than they paid him,” Mischler told the jury.
Mischler frequently referred to the Lolik’s home as “fancy” and being worth $400,000. He also said, with everything that’s happened, they’re living in it.
“I suggest the nightmare is the other way around,” Mischler said, “The nightmare is Mr. White’s.”