A North Vancouver contractor who specialized in putting holes in his clients' bank accounts has been handed a six-month conditional sentence, including three months of house arrest, after being found guilty of fraud.
Judge Joseph Galati of the Vancouver provincial court handed the sentence to Don Nelsen Oct. 24 after concluding that Nelsen took deposits from two customers then took off without doing the work or returning the money.
"I find that Mr. Nelsen, in each case, committed an objectively dishonest act," wrote Galati.
During an earlier trial, two families, in North Vancouver and Vancouver, testified about their renovations gone wrong with Nelsen. In each case, the customers hired Nelsen to replace or install skylights in their home and paid Nelsen a deposit. Nelsen then delayed starting work, made excuses and never returned to complete the jobs or give back the deposits.
In the first case, one family paid Nelsen $5,000 as a deposit to replace skylights. Nelsen made excuses for not showing up to start work, telling the homeowner he was busy with other jobs.
"There appear to have been numerous conversations and numerous broken promises as to when the work would be done," wrote Galati. Eventually the clients weren't able to reach Nelsen at all.
Nelsen, who testified in his own defence, said he didn't return the deposit because he'd already bought the skylights for the job. But the judge didn't believe him, pointing out the skylights Nelsen claimed to have bought for the job were different sizes than the ones eventually installed in the house.
The same year, another family paid Nelsen $4,000 as a 50 per cent deposit for skylight replacement but Nelsen again failed to start work on the job. Family members said when they spoke to Nelsen, "he would promise to do the work in the near future," said Galati. He he never showed up, and eventually stopped returning calls.
It isn't the first time the North Vancouver contractor has been connected with renovations from hell. In 2010, B.C. Women's Hospital hired the contractor to finish installing a specialized skylight in the building's entrance. But after Nelsen was paid an $18,000 deposit, he failed to finish the $60,000 contract.
Nelsen told the North Shore News at the time it was all a misunderstanding. Some of his other former customers might not agree.
In 2007, Nelsen was convicted of five fraud offences for bilking 10 customers out of more than $34,000. In all of those cases, Nelsen was paid deposits for work that was never completed.
Nelsen was in the process of being sentenced on those offences when he committed the frauds he was recently found guilty of.
Two companies operated by Nelsen - Skylights Only and Canadian Skylights Inc. - have both received an "F" rating by the Better Business Bureau for failing to respond to complaints.
The RCMP has also previously put out a fraud warning about him.