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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Lawyer
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Is it a criminal offense in MAssachusetts to stop payment for

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Is it a criminal offense in MAssachusetts to stop payment for services rendered? The general contractor paid me for work completed (homeowner happy with my work)', and stopped payment on 3 different checks (also bounced 2 checks to me). Can I have him arrested?

My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'd be happy to answer your questions today.

It is a crime to write a check, knowing that there are not sufficient funds in the account to pay the check. G. L. c. 266, Section 37. Intent to defraud is presumed if the person pays the check in full, along with any fees, within two days of being notified that the check did not clear. That means that if you send him notice that the check did not clear via certified mail, giving him two days to both pay the amounts due and the fees, and he does not make good on them, you could then file a police report.

A stopped payment on a check is a little different. Theft of services requires a showing that he accepted your work with intent to defraud and never intended to pay you. A stopped payment doesn't necessarily evidence that, as much as it tends to show a dispute that arose later. You can certainly sue in District Court for the money you are owed (or Superior Court, if it's more than $25,000), but you may not be able to prove theft.

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Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Thanks for your response. What if I have an email from to gc to the homeowner asking for money to pay me. There was never a dispute with the gc and the homeowner was very satisfied with my work. Aren'tI the stop payments a fraudulent act?
The stop payments are indisputably a breach of contract. But to prove fraud, a person has to prove intent at the time that the benefit was conferred - that means that you would need something to show that he never intended to pay you for the work. With the bounced checks, that's presumed. With the stopped checks, you can try to use the bounced checks as evidence, but it's much more difficult.

You're talking about criminal court, though. The way to get the money is to sue in civil court. You can do that whether there are criminal charges or not. But if he's convicted, the conviction is conclusive proof of guilt in a civil case. He wouldn't even be allowed to defend himself.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
One last point....what if I had an email from the homeowner with the gc stating that I was paid in full . Is that enough to have him arrested? Thank you for your time.
The bounced checks are enough to have him arrested, if you sent him written notice and he did not make good on them. The checks with the stop payment unfortunately are not - police will tell you that it's a civil matter.
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