Felony charges have been dropped against a Franklin County couple accused of swindling customers of thousands of dollars for home repair and remodeling work.
Prosecuting Attorney Bob Parks this week acknowledged that he dismissed felony stealing by deceit charges in the cases of Michael B. Gillette, 42, and Jennifer Gillette 35, New Haven, who owned Midwest Exteriors in Washington.
But Parks said he was pleased with that decision because as part of the deal restitution was paid “up front” to the victims.
Parks said his office returned between $67,000 and $68,000 to the victims just before Christmas.
“Our primary goal was to get restitution for the people,” Parks told The Missourian. “I was not as worried about the criminal charges as collecting the restitution.”
Parks said he knew that if he had gotten a conviction, it likely would’ve been a suspended sentence with five years’ probation.
In that case, the defendants would have made restitution payments over the five-year probation period. If the payments weren’t made, the only recourse would have been to revoke probation.
“I did what I thought was best for the victims,” Parks said.
He said he was aware that Michael Gillette had agreed to plead guilty to a similar charge in Crawford County which means that he has a felony conviction in that case.
Michael Gillette pleaded guilty to one felony stealing count and was given a five-year suspended imposition of sentence and placed on five years’ supervised probation. The couple also paid restitution in Crawford County, according to online court documents.
A Franklin County grand jury indicted the two on multiple felony counts in December 2012.
Washington police, who handled the initial investigation, alleged that the Gillettes took money from customers as down payments on work they proposed to perform on the victims’ homes, but never did the work and did not refund the down payments.
According to those allegations, some of the victims paid thousands of dollars upfront but did not have any work done that was promised.
The alleged thefts identified in the indictments occurred in May, June and July 2011.