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HVAC fraud leads to prison sentence for New Bern man

Aaron Sutton (Photos courtesy of Craven County Sheriff's Office)

A New Bern man pleaded guilty to a series of fraud crimes involving the installation of heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

District Attorney Scott Thomas announced Thursday that Aaron Robert Sutton, 31, was sent to prison after pleading guilty. Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Benjamin Alford presided over the case. Below is a press release on the news.

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District Attorney Scott Thomas announced that, in Craven County Superior Court this week, AARON ROBERT SUTTON, 31, of New Bern, pleaded guilty to a series of fraud crimes and was sent to prison. Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Benjamin Alford presided, and these cases were prosecuted in court by Assistant District Attorney Matthew Wareham.

Sutton solicited himself as an HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) repairman who operated his own small business. He drove through neighborhoods in Craven County and Trent Woods and approached homeowners, asking when they last had their home AC units inspected or serviced. He would then “inspect” the systems and state that various repairs were needed – such as replacement of fan blades, refrigerant, filters, or entire systems – when in fact no such repairs were needed. Sutton then quoted the homeowner victims a repair price that was far below market value in order to get upfront payments. Sutton would later report that repairs were underway, and he needed more money for additional parts, all of which was false. Upon getting payment, Sutton would simply not return to perform any work. After learning that repairs had not been done, several of the homeowners contacted reputable, professional HVAC repairmen, who confirmed that the units had either missing parts or that there were no signs that Sutton had performed any work. At sentencing, Sutton said that he had undertaken these frauds to support a heroin addiction, but had not sought any treatment or help with that addiction prior to being arrested.

Sutton pleaded guilty to seven counts of Obtaining Property by False Pretenses, three counts of Exploiting a Disabled or Elder Person, three counts of Failing to Work After Being Paid, and one count of Larceny.

Judge Alford sentenced Sutton to five (5) consecutive prison terms of 6-17 months, totaling 30 to 85 months. He then sentenced Sutton to two suspended sentences which will begin after Sutton is released from prison, and placed Sutton on supervised

probation for five years, during which time Sutton is required to pay more than $ 16,000 in restitution to his victims. If Sutton violates his probation, he will be subject to being returned to prison for a minimum of an additional year.

District Attorney Scott Thomas said, “The prosecution of this defendant is a good reminder to folks to be very cautious when hiring home repair workers. This is a classic scam used by fraudsters to steal money from good, honest people. Homeowners should always take precautions when hiring people to complete home repairs. Take steps to use reputable companies and research their past performance. In these cases, we seek a criminal conviction, restitution, and punishment.”

The cases were investigated by the Craven County Sheriff’s Office and the Trent Woods Police Department.

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