Crime

‘Credibility aside, this is a mess.’ State College contractor has charge dismissed

A State College contractor accused of making unauthorized purchases on a woman’s Home Depot credit card had the only charge against him dismissed on Wednesday.

Lauren Bechtel testified she paid Roger Hileman, 58, about $13,000 for a home improvement project in August 2017.

About a week after she met him, she obtained the credit card and testified she gave him authorization to use the card, but only for items related to her home improvement project.

She eventually found nearly $11,000 of purchases on the card with $8,425.32 being unauthorized.

In response to questions from Hileman’s attorney Brian Manchester, Bechtel testified Hileman continued to do work around her home even after she went to Ferguson Township police in November — though he never completed the initial basement project.

“I paid him to do the complete work,” Bechtel testified. “I did not pay him to not do the work.”

She also testified she helped Hileman rent out his house with Airbnb, but kept the money because Hileman allegedly told her to.

“I said I would help him. I cared about them,” Bechtel testified.

Despite the sprawling project, Ferguson Township police detective Jonathan Mayer testified there was no written contract between the two. He also testified Hileman admitted to the purchases, but said they were in lieu of payment.

In his closing argument, Manchester argued the purchases were not fraud because Bechtel gave him the credit card. Assistant District Attorney Joshua Bower disagreed.

“While she gave him authorization for the card, it was limited to the project on her home and her home alone,” Bower said. “He was not authorized to use the card to buy supplies for other jobs.”

District Judge Carmine Prestia ultimately dismissed the felony charge.

“Credibility aside, this is a mess,” Prestia said. “I don’t think this is access device fraud. I’m dismissing the charge.”

Miami prosecutors on Tuesday charged 11 people on allegations that they stole credit-card info from gas station patrons to buy fuel for sale on South Florida’s underground diesel market.

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