Investigator honored for uncovering fraud

Her work led to man who was convicted for a $2.5 million home improvement scheme

July 28, 2006|By TYEESHA DIXON | TYEESHA DIXON,SUN REPORTER

A Maryland Home Improvement Commission investigator was recognized yesterday for her role in uncovering a $2.5 million home improvement scheme in Maryland and Virginia.

Jennifer Grimes, an eight-year employee of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, received one of 200 awards presented in Alexandria, Va. The U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District of Virginia gave awards to people who made significant contributions to major cases.

Grimes' 1 1/2 -year investigation aided an FBI probe of Craig Oliver, who was convicted in federal court in Virginia of defrauding 68 Maryland and Virginia homeowners from 2002 to 2005. The 11 homeowners who were from Maryland lost a total of $425,000.

Oliver was sentenced in January to a 20-year prison term but fled after being released on bail. He was also ordered to pay $2.5 million in restitution. He is now a fugitive.

Grimes said she began investigating Oliver in 2003 after 10 Maryland homeowners filed complaints with the Home Improvement Commission against Oliver, who created fake home improvement businesses based in Virginia. Oliver also falsely claimed he had contractor and construction licenses and used the construction license numbers of three legitimate Maryland home improvement companies to fool customers into signing contracts and paying up front.

"I'm glad he's been sentenced. He stole the life savings of a lot of these people," Grimes said yesterday.

One Maryland homeowner, whom Oliver cheated out of $60,000 in 2003, said that he is glad to see Grimes and others who worked on the case recognized for their work, and he hoped Oliver would be found.

"It's kind of bittersweet," said Lucius Jackson II, 43, an accounts payable manager who lives in Riverdale Park in Prince George's County. "Ultimately, Craig Oliver needs to be brought to justice."

tyeesha.dixon@baltsun.com

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