A local builder accused of illegally diverting funds from a building project pleaded guilty to a felony charge Tuesday in the middle of his trial.
David White, 54, pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree grand larceny as part of a plea deal under which he could be sentenced to as much as two to six years in state prison to as little as five years of probation.
His final sentence will be determined Sept. 23 and based on how much of the more than $81,000 he owes the homeowners and subcontractors is repaid by that time, attorneys said.
White had faced one count each of second-degree grand larceny and first-degree scheme to defraud, charges that could have put him in prison for as much as 15 years, if he had been convicted.
White’s attorney, Mark Mishler, said the decision to enter the guilty plea was a recognition that evidence entered by the prosecution at trial could lead a jury to conclude that White diverted funds. The trial ended midway through the defense’s case, though prosecutors were expected to still enter bank records.
“I think that Dave White is a great person and did not intend in any way to cause anyone any harm,” Mishler said. “Unfortunately, things were not as well accounted for as they should have been.”
Prosecutor Peter Willis told the jury in his opening statements that White either diverted money paid by Mary and Stephen Loliks for their dream house to other projects, which is illegal, or couldn’t say what happened to it. Failing to keep records, Willis told the jury, is presumptive evidence the money was diverted.
White’s actions, Willis told the jury, turned the Loliks’ dream home into a nightmare.
As part of his agreement to repay the $81,000, White also agreed to drop a pending lawsuit against the Loliks and release a lien on the home. Other subcontractor liens remain, but Willis said those would be removed once White pays them.
Willis said the Loliks were aware that the plea offer had been extended.
“I think the primary concern for them is getting a clear title to the house and getting people paid off,” Willis said.
The plea deal puts them on the path toward seeing that happen, Willis said.
The Loliks hired White to build a home for them on Snake Hill Road in Glenville in 2008. The original contract was for $278,000, but the cost increased to $317,000 and then inexplicably increased to $393,000, Willis told the jury in openings.
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.
Tuesday’s plea deal was largely similar to one offered before trial, with the main difference being when the restitution was due.