Steven Kaldeck grew up in the modest ranch on Richard Road in Natick with his parents, Lawrence and Linda.
"This was their first and only home," Kaldeck told us. "I think it meant everything to them."
Back in 2015, the family hired William Pusateri of Priority 1 Paving to upgrade the driveway.
Kaldeck, who has autism, remembers that job seemed to go smoothly enough. But after that project was complete, Kaldeck said the paver kept finding other things around the property that needed to be repaired.
"At the time, I didn’t have any suspicions about it," Kaldeck said. "But looking back, it definitely seems very suspicious to me now."
We connected with Kaldeck during our investigation of Pusateri and complaints all over the Boston area about his paving business. Customers accused Pusateri of accepting thousands of dollars in deposits and then disappearing without doing the work.
More on the To Catch a Contractor series
We discovered Pusateri had spent several years in prison for a similar scheme in Worcester County a decade earlier.
As one customer put it to us: "He says he’s a paver, but his real job is stealing money from people."
For Kaldeck, his red flag came during a time of immense grief in 2020.
At the outset of the pandemic, both of his parents died within 48 hours of each other. They had both been in poor health. His mother suffered from complications of multiple sclerosis. His father was in hospice with cancer.
"I was just so overwhelmed," Kaldeck said. "First planning a funeral for my mom, and then on top of that, my dad as well."
As he got their finances in order, Kaldeck discovered his parents had taken out a reverse mortgage, which he said was to pay Pusateri for all those projects around the house.
When we visited Kaldeck at the 1950s ranch, there were no signs of any significant upgrades or renovations.
However, the balance on the reverse mortgage was more than $160,000, a balance that needed to be paid within one year of his parents’ deaths.
Kaldeck had to take out his own loan to erase the debt.
"It was quite a big burden," he said. "It’s just something I wish I didn’t have to deal with."
And then, out of the blue this past January, Kaldeck said Pusateri appeared at his door again.
The paver told him there was a cracked beam in his roof that he could fix. Kaldeck, who is on the autism spectrum but is a fully-functioning adult, told us that his disability makes it difficult to say "no" to people.
"I was surprised when he showed up," Kaldeck said. "Then I thought, 'OK, he’s finally back to do that work he promised to do.'"
He agreed to let Pusateri proceed with the project he’d recommended.
Over the next month, Kaldeck wrote nine checks and took out five cash withdrawals totaling nearly $22,000. In some instances, he wrote several checks to Pusateri on the same day in $2,000 increments.
When no work had been completed, he confided in Raouf Zaki, his boss and a family friend.
Zaki is an independent filmmaker who hired Kaldeck 15 years ago after being impressed with his work ethic. The two now team up on projects together.
Kaldeck even stars in a soon-to-be-released film about a man with autism who falls in love with a woman who is blind.
"He’s been more like a younger brother to me at this point," Zaki told us. "I knew that (Pusateri) took advantage of Steven and that really upset me."
Kaldeck asked Pusateri to come to his home and Zaki confronted the contractor at the kitchen table, asking what had happened to all the money and holding up the so-called "contract" that was nothing more than a bunch of numbers and scribbling on a piece of paper.
"You’ve been robbing people’s dreams," Zaki said he told Pusateri. "Elderly people and special needs people. How can you do this? He showed absolutely no regrets and no remorse."
Before Pusateri left, they had him sign a document, promising to pay Kaldeck back by the end of the week. That was in February.
When the deadline passed, Kaldeck and Zaki went to the Natick police.
Pusateri is now facing a felony larceny charge and will be arraigned in June.
According to court documents, Pusateri told police he did sign the document but said he was pressured into it. He agreed to repay Kaldeck but would need a little extra time, he told police.
When we reached out to Pusateri, he told us to "talk to my attorney" and then hung up the phone. It’s unclear who Pusateri’s attorney is or whether he has retained one. The attorney’s name he gave us for our previous investigation never responded to our inquiries.
As we reported, police documents we obtained indicate coinciding investigations by the Middlesex District Attorney and Norfolk District Attorney, with plans to present the evidence to a grand jury for indictments.
Meantime, Kaldeck has yet to see a dime of the money he lost, which he described as his "life savings" to police.
When asked if he was preyed upon, Kaldeck said, “I think he definitely preyed on us. It’s bad enough to prey on someone, but to take advantage of their condition…that’s a whole other level of badness.”