WATERTOWN — A local contractor has allegedly shown a pattern of not completing jobs after being paid to do so, according to court documents, police records and nearly a half-dozen people who have worked with him in the past.
Kenneth F. Mallette, 50, Watertown, was arrested in September and charged with third-degree grand larceny. City police allege Mr. Mallette, an independent contractor, was hired by Walberto Flores in July to repair the roof of his house in Watertown. Mr. Flores paid Mr. Mallette $4,300 in advance; however, Mallette didn’t complete the work and used the money for other purposes, according to the felony complaint.
Following Mr. Mallette’s arrest, more instances have come to light in which he was contracted with and paid upfront, but didn’t complete the job. He owes money in three civil cases, totaling more than $2,000. One Watertown business owner, who said Mr. Mallette uses his limited liability company as a point of reference without permission, said he has received multiple calls in recent months from people complaining about Mr. Mallette. People who have hired Mr. Mallette describe him as calculated and seemingly trustworthy at first. They say he uses manipulative tactics and understands the law affecting independent contractors. He completes the first few jobs and then things change.
Christina Russo, a partner with Drum Apartments LLC, said she hired Mr. Mallette to fix two windows in June at a residence she owns in Watertown. She gave him a $200 advance, but he never came back to do the job, she said.
“Two hundred and fifteen dollars is a small amount, but it’s not the point,” Ms. Russo said. “He’s going around here doing it to a lot of people, and it’s not right. It’s a headache going back and forth to court, taking time out of your day. That’s what makes people give up, but at the same time I feel like something has to be done.”
According to a Watertown City Court Small Claims Judgment, on Aug. 8 a judge ordered Mr. Mallette to pay Ms. Russo back the $200, which as of press time has yet to happen. Ms. Russo knows others who allege they have paid Mr. Mallette to do a job that was never finished. She has text messages from her neighbor, who said she hired Mr. Mallette and paid him $1,200 upfront for materials and labor. The neighbor told Ms. Russo he purchased no more than $200 in supplies and “put in a few hours of sloppy work,” according to the messages.
“To me it’s insane because he’s getting away with this,” Ms. Russo said. “Basically he goes to court, and he’s smart. He can talk a good game. And then we do win judgment, but when we try to go after him for our money, he doesn’t pay us back.”
Ms. Russo said she hired Mr. Mallette for a few jobs before the instance in which she alleges he stole from her. She said he presented himself well to begin with, and then he began lowering prices.
“I think that’s the way he cons people,” she said. “He does the first couple jobs to make you feel comfortable, to make you feel like you found somebody you can rely on, that’s not going to take advantage.”
Durant Anthony, Ms. Russo’s business partner, said he used to contract with Mr. Mallette as well.
“His first goal is to gain your trust,” Mr. Anthony said. “After that, he’s going to work you for a big job and then take everything and go.”
Since cutting ties with the contractor, Mr. Anthony said Mr. Mallette still uses his company as a reference to get jobs. Mr. Anthony said he has received nearly 10 phone calls in recent months from people complaining about Mr. Mallette.
“I have to explain to people that, ‘No this guy was a past employee,’” Anthony said. “He does not have any affiliation with me or with the company.”
Patricia and Byron Davis, both of Watertown, contracted Mr. Mallette through Craigslist in May. Mrs. Davis said they hired him to paint their roof, tear down a shed and remove junk from their basement and backyard. Mrs. Davis said she paid him $1,600 in advance for materials and labor. A relative of Mr. Mallette started the job but worked briefly, and Mr. Mallette did not show up on several occasions, so she fired him. She said the cash advance was never refunded. Mr. and Mrs. Davis filed a civil complaint against Mr. Mallette on May 30, pursuing $1,450 in work he didn’t complete. A judge ruled in the Davises favor on June 19, according to a City Court judgment.
“He said he wasn’t going to give me a dime,” Davis said. “He told me I had no authority to terminate anyone.”
Warren S. White, Theresa, recently won a judgment in civil court against Mr. Mallette. In court filings, Mr. White alleges he hired Mr. Mallette in December 2018 for interior work at his home. He said he paid Mr. Mallette $400 for work he never did.
Mr. White told Mr. Mallette he would rather settle the matter between the two instead of going to court, according to text messages obtained by The Times.
“I’m looking for work now,” Mr. Mallette responded. “... If I can’t pay it I’ll pay a little at a time.”
Mr. White also notified Mr. Mallette of his intentions to pursue a civil judgment.
“Good luck I like civil court,” Mr. Mallette texted Mr. White. “ … even if you won, which you won’t, it’s a civil judgment.”
On Oct. 3, a judge ordered Mr. Mallette pay Mr. White $400, according to a city court judgment. Mr. White said he has yet to be paid back.
It appears Mr. Mallette is still advertising his services in Watertown, as of just weeks ago. According to a listing on Craigslist posted on Oct. 6, Mr. Mallette is offering to be contracted under the name “Tamken’s Handyman Services (Watertown).”
Mr. Anthony discovered Tamken’s recently while browsing for a contractor. The Craigslist posting offers a phone number to dial, and text messages show Mr. Anthony messaging the number asking, “Kenney?” and the number responded “Yeah.”
The Times attempted to reach the phone number several times. Mr. Mallette listed a different number in civil court documents, but it has since been disconnected.