7 Investigates: Unlicensed contractor accused of failing to get proper permits, complete work

(WHDH) — Erin Eggers was excited about updating her Framingham home.

“Currently there’s one bath in the house and I have 3 teenage kids,” says Eggers. “We wanted to replace a falling down and rotting mud room from the 1920s.”

She found a contractor she thought could turn her plans into reality.

“He presents himself as licensed and insured,” says Eggers. “He seemed very eager for the work, he was excited about it. He was charming.”

But weeks into the project the city’s building department shut everything down, and Eggers was out $66,000.

Inspectors told her the man she hired, Vinny Santos, was working under another contractor’s license number and ID.

“When he came in, we noticed it wasn’t the same person that was pictured on the construction supervisor license,” says Framingham Building Commissioner and Director of Inspectional Services Michael Tusino.

7 Investigates asked Tusino if Santos’ action seemed intentional. Tusino said, “to us it did.”

Turns out Santos has never had a construction supervisor license in Massachusetts, a requirement for anyone doing this level of work.

And his Home Improvement registration, which is also required by law, was revoked in 2019 for not paying a fine.

WALTHAM:

Patrick Smeeding hired Santos to renovate his kitchen and dining room last fall.

“Within a week, they were ready to go,” says Smeeding. “It started great.”

Once most of his Waltham home was gutted, the problems started.

“There’s just excuses. It’s over a week, maybe six hours of work gets done,” says Smeeding. “I probably lost 25 to 30,000 dollars of money that I don’t know where it went.”

Once again the permits pulled for the job were under another contractor, a man named Mark Connell.

CONVERSATION WITH VINNY SANTOS:

Santos called Connell a friend in our phone interview.

During the interview, 7 Investigator Sam Smink asked Santos if he was registered and licensed. Santos said, “No, no, I go through Mark Connell.”

Sam Smink then asked Santos, if Mark “knows that you used his registration and license number for all of those permits?” Santos replied, “Yeah, he does that for me. And he gets paid.”

But Mark Connell, who did not want his interview to be recorded, told me that’s not true.He says he has worked on some projects with Santos but not all of the ones that are now being investigated.

Sam Smink then asked Santos if the “homeowners that have never met Mark, never heard Mark’s name, you don’t think they should know that before you apply for the permits?” Santos said, “they don’t ask me any of that information.”

Santos claims he is going to pay all the homeowners back, “I will pay back. I’m going to get a job and pay back.”

Santos has been fined and cited by the state for failing to complete work.

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s office has received five complaints against Santos, and he’s been sued ten times for failing to complete work or get the proper permits.

NEWTON:

“He had business cards that said fully licensed and insured,” says Matthew Orlando, one of the people suing Santos.  “Total, we gave Vinny a little over $200,000 into the project.”

Orlando says he hired Santos to put a second floor on his new home in Newton.

Most of the work was done quickly.

But city inspectors said Santos didn’t get the work inspected so it all had to be redone.

“Every board that he put in the house would have to come out,” says Matthew Orlando.

Orlando learned Santos pulled the permits once again using Mark Connell’s name.

“I’m just hoping someone can stop him,” says Orlando.

THE NEXT STEPS

Framingham City officials tell me they are moving to revoke Mark Connell’s license.

The Middlesex DA’s office is also now looking into whether Santos forged signatures on some customer contracts.

HOW TO FILE A COMPLAINT AGAINST A CONTRACTOR:

There are several places you go to file a complaint against a contractor. The MA Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation accepts all consumer complaints.

However, consumers can only file for benefits from the Home Improvement Contractor Program if the contractor is registered, and if you’ve signed a contract. It’s an official process that involves a hearing.

Here’s more information: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/home-improvement-contractor-law-resources.

The Attorney General’s Office Consumer Advocacy and Response Division can provide assistance even if there’s no contract and even if the contractor is not registered.

Contact the AG’s Office’s consumer assistance hotline with questions 617-727-8400 or file a complaint online at mass.gov/how-to/file-a-consumer-complaint]mass.gov/how-to/file-a-consumer-complaint.

If you need to file a complaint against someone’s license, you can file it at the Division of Professional Licensure: https://www.mass.gov/file-a-complaint-against-a-dpl-licensee

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