State lawmakers on Beacon Hill are reacting to our NBC10 Boston investigation about a contractor's trail of destruction across New England.
In our investigative series, "To Catch a Contractor," we revealed how homeowners paid big bucks for pools and other expensive projects. Instead, they were left with giant holes in their backyards and broken promises.
The homeowners had hired Steven Docchio of Xtreme Living Pools and Construction. Some sued the contractor and won six-figure civil judgements, but have been unable to collect any funds or find assets that can be seized.
We uncovered how Docchio has criminal histories in Rhode Island and Connecticut and owes consumers money there, too. Records show he is barred from working as a contractor in those states.
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Despite his track record, Docchio still has an active home improvement contractor registration in Massachusetts.
When we confronted Docchio about the long list of lawsuits, criminal charges and consumer complaints, he called the allegations "false."
"For a journalist, you don't know the truth," Docchio said outside a Rhode Island courthouse. He did not elaborate when we asked follow-up questions.
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We took our findings to Rep. Tackey Chan and Sen. Susan Moran, who co-chair the Legislature's Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure.
"We have to do a better job of being a watchdog for these folks," said Moran. "I appreciate you doing the story and letting consumers know the risks out there."
"It's quite amazing how this individual was able to get away as far as he has defrauding people in three states," added Chan. "You don't know how many other victims are out there beyond your own story."
Both lawmakers said they would work on legislation that could prevent "bad actors" from continuing to do business with seemingly no repercussions.
More immediately, they both suggested changes to the application when contractors receive or renew their HIC registration. As we reported in our investigation, there are currently no questions about previous criminal convictions or disciplinary action against licenses in other states.
Moran said the application could be signed under the "pains and penalties of perjury," which could allow state regulators to take swift action if a contractor lied on the document.
"That certainly would be a simple and effective idea," Moran said.
We contacted the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation about that proposed change and are awaiting a response.
The lawmakers also said OCABR should initiate an investigation into Docchio's registration status, based on troubling details and many consumer horror stories we included in "To Catch a Contractor." An agency spokesperson previously told us it had "no current complaints."
"He should definitely have his registration revoked," said Chan. "And everybody that has ever used this individual should report him to the Office of Consumer Affairs."
Since first publishing our investigation, we have continued to hear from more homeowners who hired Docchio and lost thousands of dollars on unfinished projects.
One of them is Wesley Ramkissoon of Norwell.
"He built our trust," Ramkissoon told us in his backyard. "I think that's the M.O. He builds your trust and then just takes advantage from there."
Ramkissoon hired Docchio for a patio and pool project in 2018. At first, he said the $68,000 project seemed to be humming along and he continued to make progress payments as things took shape.
However, Ramkissoon said the delays and excuses started to pile up. What was supposed to be a 4-week project stretched into years. The family of four lost two summers of enjoying their backyard.
"It definitely brings a toll on the family," Ramkissoon said. "It takes years off your life, without question. Stress is no joke."
Ramkissoon said he eventually took matters into his own hands to finish the project, hiring other subcontractors and doing some of the work himself.
He took Docchio to court and won a civil judgment of nearly $35,000. But like other consumers, he has not recouped any of the money.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is investigating the complaints to see if any legal action can be pursued.
"I believe it's a crime for what he’s doing to people," Ramkissoon said. "He should be punished."