CLEVELAND -- U.S. Postal Inspectors issued a cautionary story about one woman's effort to restore her lifelong home. Katherine Gay fell victim to a scheme that cost her dream. She said, "I trusted them... they fooled me. "
Gay said she was tricked into a scheme that has now cost her the only home she has ever known. She said it all started when a company offered to help her take out a loan and then make repairs on her home. Among the things the company said they would do: fix the porches, new siding, new windows and cut down trees.
Gay said, "I was so happy to be getting the house fixed up. So happy. I wanted the house to go back to the way it was when I was young, when I was 15 years old."
Happiness quickly turned to anger when Katherine realized the conmen had taken the loan money but did only a few of the promised repairs.
Kimberly Kepling, U.S. Postal Inspector, said, "In Mrs. Gay's case she got new windows. There is a whole list of things they were supposed to take care of and in the end they left her in worse shape then when they arrived."
Postal inspectors said Katherine was one of 42 elderly victims taken in by these men: David Lasalla, Mitchell Jones and Chuck Cravotta.
Kepling said, "Once the mortgage loans were funded, the money was supposed to go back to the victims. Often, they would intercept the check or they would offer to take the check to the victim by the title company. Then they would have the victim sign the check and they would deposit it into their account."
Officials said by the time they caught the suspects - there was no money left to return to the victims. Kepling said, "They drove nice cars, they took nice vacations, they went gambling. Basically, they spent the money as fast as they got it."
Inspectors said it is important to thoroughly research a company before ever giving it any money or control over your money. But, don't just research the company. Kepling said you should also have the individuals checked out.
Unfortunately, that advice came too late for Katherine Gay, who could not afford the monthly loan payments and can't sell the house in its current condition.
Kepling said, "She is going to have to move because her property is being sold. "
David Lasalla was sentenced to prison time and ordered to pay more than $500,000 in this case. Mitchell Jones and Chuck Cravotta were also ordered to pay restitution.
US Postal Inspectors/WFMY News 2