Dennis Sanders, a well-known community volunteer who faces nine felony charges of home improvement fraud and theft in Howard County, now faces six new felony charges in Miami County as part of what investigators say was years-long scheme targeting elderly people.
The 60-year-old Kokomo man now faces a total of 15 felony charges of home improvement fraud and theft since the first charge was filed on July 29 of last year. In nearly every case, the victims were 70 or older.
In Miami County, state police started investigating Sanders after receiving information he had committed home improvement fraud against three residents. Police say all three victims called Sanders after seeing his advertisement for his company, Ace Handyman, in a newspaper.
The victims told police Sanders provided them with estimates and agreed to do home repairs for them but never finished the work.
One victim ended up paying Sanders $4,550 to do roof repairs that were never finished, according to a probable cause affidavit. Police said some of the tasks Sanders worked on had such poor craftsmanship it made the homeowners original damage worse.
The investigation also revealed that Sanders overcharged individuals, as well as suggested repairs that didn’t need to be done. Police said Sanders even went so far as to damage homeowners’ property to back up his false claims of needed repairs.
Police said in total, Sanders scammed a total of approximately $14,000 in the three Miami County cases.
Sanders was served a warrant Tuesday at the Howard County jail, where he is being held, on felony charges of corrupt business influence, two counts of home improvement fraud and three charges of theft. He also faces a misdemeanor charge for home improvement fraud.
The first case that led to Sanders’ arrest in July came after police say a 76-year-old man with lung cancer paid him $48,000 to do construction projects at his house that were never completed.
Kokomo Detective Mike Banush said in a previous interview publicity of Sanders’ arrest led to around 30 calls from people who said they were also victims of Sanders’ scam. All of them were 70 or older, he said.
“I’ve been a detective for 26 years and worked a handful of home improvement frauds, and this case just blossomed out,” he said. “… I’ve not seen this many victims before. It’s usually several, but not this many.”
Sanders was a longtime volunteer at the Kokomo Rescue Mission’s Red Ribbon Christmas and an elder in his church. He also participated in the Mayor’s Prayer and Action Breakfast and regularly attended Kokomo Common Council meetings.
The 60-year-old was also established in the community as someone who helped people struggling with drug addiction and was featured last year in a TV news segment about his work visiting recovering addicts at their homes in Kokomo.
A trial has been scheduled in Howard County for his charges on March 27 in Howard Superior Court 1.