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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 29985
Experience:  Criminal Justice Degree, JD with Criminal Law Concentration. Worked for the DA and U.S. Attorney.
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We gave a person a $3000 dollar deposit to work on our kitchen.

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We gave a person a $3000 dollar deposit to work on our kitchen. It's been two months, he won't return our phone calls or emails and he has not started any of the work. Our local police department told us that if we signed a contract with him it wasn't a criminal case, but that just doesn't seem right. I work with a retired deputy sheriff and he says it should be "theft by deception". We filed a civil case in our hometown, but I know that's not going to get our money back. Is there a way to find out if this is a criminal case and we were just talking to the wrong person at our local police department?

My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'd be happy to answer your questions today. I'm sorry to hear that this happened.

Police could investigate the person for theft of services if there was some evidence that he never intended to do any work. However, police have to be able to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, so there needs to be more evidence than just that he didn't do the work. Also keep in mind that a criminal prosecution doesn't automatically mean that you'd get the money back. I worked in cases involving restitution where the victims were getting less than $5/month. Without evidence of fraud, and because you have a civil remedy, police do have discretion to refuse to investigate the case.

Essentially, this is a breach of contract case. You have the option of going to court and filing a civil case to get your money back. There is a much lower standard of proof in civil court. To start, you need only prove that you had an agreement that he would do your kitchen and that he didn't do it within a reasonable time. You don't need to prove that he's a bad person or that he wanted to defraud you - just that he didn't do that work. It's much easier. Plus, you only need to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he owes the money, which is a much lower standard than beyond a reasonable doubt.

In Ohio, a person can seek up to $3,000 in Small Claims Court. Check the website for your county's court - many courts now have forms online that you can use to start the case.

If you have any questions or concerns about what I've written, please reply so that I may address them. It's important to me that you are 100% satisfied with the service I provide. Otherwise, please rate my service positively so that I get credit for answering your question. Thank you.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

We already filed the civil case against him. I'm hoping to put something criminal on his record to maybe save the next person he tries to scam. What I was looking for is some advice on who I should talk to next (do I need to try to contact the prosecuting attorney, would talking to the sheriffs department maybe give me different results than talking to the local police department)

If the officer you spoke with isn't interested in taking the case, the next step is to talk to a supervisor - try going up the chain of command. Without a police report, the prosecuting attorney isn't likely to be able to help. If the police did take an initial report, you can try talking to the D.A. instead. You could try calling the county sheriff to see if this falls within their jurisdiction. They might refer you back to the local police.

Unfortunately, there is no legal right for a person to force police or the DA to go after someone. Under the separation of powers doctrine, a judge cannot interfere with prosecutorial discretion in this situation. So, if talking to someone higher up doesn't help, while I understand that you're angry and want to pursue criminal charges, there isn't any way to force it to happen.
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