Man convicted 3 times charged again

A Berks County man previously sentenced to probation for home improvement fraud in three counties faces new fraud counts after Mohnton police accused him of ripping off two borough homeowners to the tune of nearly 11,000.

Joseph Duerr, 39, whose last known address was listed as the 2800 block of Sturbridge Court in Spring Township, was arrested Monday by members of the warrants division of the Berks County sheriff’s office.

Arrest details were unavailable.

Duerr was committed to the county prison in lieu of $100,000 bail after arraignment Monday night before District Judge Dean R. Patton in Reading Central Court.

In both cases he’s charged with home improvement fraud, theft by deception and deceptive business practices.

Duerr has pleaded guilty to similar counts in Lehigh County in 2019, Lancaster County in 2020 and Berks County in 2017, according to court records.

He was given years of probation in each of those cases, with the stipulation that he must pay restitution to the victims in full during his probationary period.

Mohnton police Chief Eric Pistilli said he was dispatched Sept. 16 to investigate reports of contractor fraud against two homeowners with adjoining backyards.

Pistilli provided the following details in the the probable cause affidavits:

Both victims said they hired Duerr, who purported to be a licensed home improvement contractor under the name Northeast Epoxy LLC, to make backyard improvements.

The work was never completed, prompting them to discover through internet research that Duerr was on probation for contractor fraud.

One property owner said she gave Duerr a check for $3,000 on July 30 as a down payment for improvements to her backyard shed, including a stone walkway and retaining wall.

She made the check payable to Northeast Epoxy but the receipt she received from Duerr was under the letterhead of a different company, Truss International Construction Co.

Three days later, Duerr contacted the homeowner and stated that his team would be dividing the job into three phases. Since Duerr had already deposited her check, the homeowner had little choice but to continue on with the arrangement.

On Aug. 24, the homeowner contacted Duerr to inquire about the status of the work. He told her that he scheduled the work to be completed beginning Sept. 8, and that he was sending a crew that would complete the work in a single day.

On Sept. 8, the victim received a phone call that dropped after one ring. Her caller ID showed it was from Duerr.

She began to receive multiple text messages from the same phone number that indicated the job had been put on hold due to permitting issues.

Additional text messages on Sept. 22 and 27 advised of permitting issues and possible refunds, but the work wasn’t done nor was she refunded her down payment.

The other homeowner hired Duerr to make backyard improvements including building a covered patio addition. She paid $7,780 to Duerr through Northeast Epoxy.

On Aug. 25, she was notified by the borough code enforcement officer, Glen Bertolet of Kraft Code Services, that neither Duerr nor Northeast Epoxy had applied for the required construction permit.

While Bertolet was on the property, Duerr called the homeowner on her cellphone.

Bertolet spoke with Duerr directly and explained the need for a permit and the process. Duerr stated he would apply for the permit and also stated that he was a licensed contractor.

On Sept. 16, Kraft Code Services issued a notice of violation/stop work order to the homeowner because Duerr had failed to apply for the construction permit.

Pistilli learned through the search of the Pennsylvania attorney general’s website that neither Duerr nor Northeast Epoxy are listed as licensed contractors, contrary to statements Duerr made to the victims and the code enforcement officer.

Duerr, formerly of Richmond Township, was on probation from the 2017 Berks case when he was arrested in 2019 on charges he took money from homeowners in Allentown and Bethlehem.

He later pleaded guilty to those charges in Lehigh County Court and remains on probation in those cases, court records indicate.