Prosecution by Colorado Attorney General's Office Results in Sentencing in Basement Finishing Scam

DENVER – Attorney General John Suthers today announced that a defendant in a multi-county case prosecuted by his office was sentenced on June 28 in connection to a basement finishing scam operation involving nearly 40 homes in the Denver metro area. Attorney General John Suthers today announced that a defendant in a multi-county case prosecuted by his office was sentenced on June 28 in connection to a basement finishing scam operation involving nearly 40 homes in the Denver metro area.

A Jefferson County District Court judge sentenced Mark Pratt a.k.a. Marques Pratt, 37, to 12 years probation and $309,000 in restitution. Pratt had pled guilty to a class 3 felony theft.

"This case is a good opportunity to remind consumers to be cautious when dealing with contractors," said Attorney General Suthers. "We would urge consumers to shop around and ask for referrals. Do not pay for all the work up-front and check if the contractor has pulled the necessary permits for the work."

According to the indictment, obtained in January 2003 by the statewide grand jury, Pratt’s two businesses, Denver-based United Restoration and Basement Finishing Co. and Westminster-based Basements Unlimited, accepted payments for basement finishing projects, started the work and left the jobs incomplete.

In most cases, after a contract was signed, Pratt used the payments for business and personal costs rather than for the project itself. Colorado law provides that funds paid to a contractor under a building, construction or remodeling project be held in a trust for the payment of subcontractors, material suppliers and other related costs associated to the project. Homeowners were subsequently forced to fight or pay liens filed against their homes by unpaid subcontractors or suppliers.

The judge found that Pratt was aware that he was misdirecting funds and that he had instructed salespeople to make additional sales to cover the problems.

The nearly 40 homeowners resided in Arapahoe, Adams, Boulder, Denver, Douglas and Jefferson Counties and they lost a combined $250,000 to $500,000.

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