Fraud cases build up against Parowan handyman accused of bilking homeowners

Stock image | St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Legal troubles mount for a Parowan handyman who was arrested on second-degree felony theft for taking payment for a job he allegedly failed to show up for — as detectives continue to look into a number of similar complaints as part of an ongoing investigation by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

Berklee Holm, 67, of Parowan, booking photo taken in Washington County, Utah, May 13, 2020 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Berklee Holm, 67, was arrested Wednesday afternoon by sheriff’s detectives who were tasked with investigating what was initially reported as a possible fraud incident out of New Harmony, according to charging documents filed with the court. 

Deputies were dispatched to a residence where the suspect was contracted to build a garage. The homeowner told police that a man, later identified as Holm, provided her with a proposal to build the garage on November 18 and told her he would need an $8,000 deposit to start the job, which was paid that same day by check. 

The parties scheduled a date for the job to begin, but when that passed without hearing from the suspect, the homeowner contacted Holm who “made several excuses for not being on the job” and then quit answering his phone calls, the officer noted in arrest documents submitted to the court. 

The suspect was interviewed at the Washington County Sheriff’s Office Wednesday afternoon, when he allegedly admitted to police that he accepted the $8,000 check from the homeowner and then failed to complete the work or return any of their phone calls. 

Holm was subsequently arrested and booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility facing second-degree felony theft. 

The arrest on Wednesday was not the first run-in the suspect has had with the law, and it may not be the last. 

Washington County Sheriff’s Sgt. Nate Abbott told St. George News that detectives are investigating a handful of complaints received in Washington County involving Holm, and are working closely with the county attorney’s office to make sure that each incident reported involves blatant fraud or theft. They are also looking at instances where the suspect was paid for labor or services by the customer, and then failed to perform the work or even show up as promised.

Deputies were also able to tie a case filed in April after the suspect was arrested by Hurricane Police Officers April 3 for a similar incident.

Stock image | Photo by Wutwhanfoto/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

That case involved a $21,000 check that was written to the suspect by a woman who contracted his services to complete a concrete job on her property, a check he reportedly deposited into his account the same day. However, the homeowner mistakenly made the check for an amount significantly higher than what was agreed upon, according to charging documents filed with the court.

The homeowner told police the suspect bid a price of $4,200 to complete the job and that he said he would need $2,100 at the time to purchase materials. In error, she said during the interview, she wrote a check for $21,000 and delivered it to Holm on March 13. The homeowner then called the suspect numerous times, all of which went unanswered.

Moreover, the suspect failed to return to the job site on the agreed-upon day, nor did he complete the work as contracted.

He was arrested by Hurricane Police Officers April 4 and the case is still pending according to court records. For that case, the suspect is scheduled to make an initial appearance June 1 in 5th District Court on one second-degree felony charge of theft of mislaid/lost/mistaken property.

Holm was being held on $10,000 bail after his arrest Wednesday, and according to corrections staff he was released after posting bond.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office has an ongoing investigation that involves a number of complaints, Abbott said, and authorities have reason to believe there may be more victims out there – not only in Washington County, he said, but in surrounding counties in Southern Utah and possibly Arizona and Nevada.

“We are asking anyone who has reason to believe they have been defrauded by this suspect, or who may have paid for services that were never rendered by Holm to call the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and report it, Abbott said.” 

Abbott added that even if an incident took place outside of the local area, individuals can call the sheriff’s office for assistance where they can be redirected to their local law enforcement agency or given information on the appropriate agency to contact.

To report similar incidents or if anyone has information that would help the investigation, contact the Washington County Sheriff’s Office non-emergency dispatch at 435-656-5730.

St. George News Reporter Aspen Stoddard contributed to this report.

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