BROCKTON — Stephen Straz, 32, of Quincy, was arraigned on 50 charges in Plymouth County Superior Court in Brockton, Wednesday, April 10, before assistant clerk magistrate Patrick Creedon. Judges were unavailable for the session as three were in training and two were otherwise occupied, according to a court employee.
Before the arraignment, on Jan. 28, 2019, Straz was indicted by a Plymouth County grand jury on charges that he allegedly worked as an unlicensed and uninsured contractor and billed 10 area households, including an elderly Hanson couple displaced after a 2017 fire on Brook Street, for amounts totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars in shoddy construction, according to Plymouth County district attorney Timothy Cruz and court records.
The indictments against Straz charge him with larceny, home improvement contractor violations, failure to have workers’ compensation insurance, perjury, forgery and uttering.
They follow a five month-long grand jury investigation led by Hanson Police and Hanson Police Sergeant Eugene Andrews following multiple complaints in various jurisdictions in Plymouth County and in other counties across the state.
The most egregious of the alleged crimes occurred in Hanson, say court documents, where Luigi and Lina Avitabile, a Hanson couple displaced into trailers after a July 2017 house fire, hired Straz to rebuild their house. While Straz did do some demolition work for them on the burnt remains of their house, they are out approximately $110,000 according to a source close to the investigation due to substandard and incomplete work and have filed suit in order to attempt to recover their money.
When his case was called, Straz quickly strode up to the dais. His attorney, Stefan Rozembersky, waived the formal reading of charges, but the arraignment process was lengthy, as Straz, often looking toward the ground, pleaded “not guilty,” and “not guilty, sir,” as Creedon read groups of charges.
Prosecutor Alex Zane did not request bail, noting that Straz was in court and had, “been aware of the investigation as it was occurring.”
Creedon imposed $100 bail.
Straz has been operating as a contractor since 2015 and received considerable sums of money from clients who hired him to perform projects on their homes but similarly did not complete or did shoddy work, investigators and alleged victims say.
In the course of these home improvement and construction projects, the indictments allege that Straz made numerous false statements about his licensure, his expertise, insurance status and his ability to complete the projects. Prosecutors say Straz allegedly forged signatures, generated fake and fraudulent documents and committed perjury on affidavits in order to conceal his lack of licensure and insurance.
The investigation also found that Straz engaged in deceptive business practices, including falsely advertising his licensure as construction supervisor, and creating or knowingly allowing false testimonial endorsements to be published about one of his corporations, Straz Construction, Inc. A Facebook page for the Quincy-based corporation indicates the company’s motto is, “The start of ‘Honest’ work.”
In total, the cost to the alleged victims ranges in price from thousands of dollars to the Avitabile project, where over $110,000 was lost.
Straz faces the following charges: home improvement contractor violations, perjury, larceny of property over $1,200 by a single scheme, obtaining a signature by false pretense, defacement of real or personal property, forgery, larceny of property less than $1,200, common and notorious theft, employer failure to have workers’ compensation, larceny over $250 from a person over 60, state building code violations, uttering and identity fraud.
Attempts to reach Straz were unsuccessful as of press time.
He will next appear in Plymouth Superior Court in Brockton on July 16 for a pre-trial hearing. Another pre-trial hearing date, Oct. 15, was set as well.