Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Continuing Tale of the Builder That Left Buyers High and Dry

by Michael C, Bailey,

Donald B. Shulman, owner of Realty DevelopmentAssociates in MA, who allegedly bilked several customers out of millions of dollars may have avoided any consequences in criminal court, but the people who claim Donald B. Shulman defrauded them of their money have turned to other means hoping to get some measure of justice.

“We want him out of the business because he will steal from other people,” said Ethan Schaff of Stoughton, who ran afoul of Mr. Shulman in 2011 while trying to build a new home on Shorewood Drive, East Falmouth—a home that as of this month has yet to be completed.

Mr. Shulman, 60, of Marstons Mills, last appeared in Falmouth District Court on January 18, when charges of larceny over $250 by a single scheme and larceny over $250 were dismissed on a legal motion. Judge Michael C. Creedon wrote in a memorandum that the matter was better suited for a civil lawsuit rather than criminal proceedings.

Mr. Shulman, had he been convicted, would have faced a maximum penalty of five years in prison and $25,000 in fines on each charge.

Mr. Schaff, an attorney specializing in criminal law, and his wife, Beth, brought the criminal case forth last May, after Mr. Shulman allegedly defaulted on a contract to provide a modular home for their Shorewood Drive property, which received the Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals’ approval for a raze-and-rebuild project in 2011. The Schaffs, who still plan to move to Falmouth within the year, are now pursuing a civil case against Mr. Shulman.

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office is currently reviewing complaints against Mr. Shulman, who previously did business under the name Realty Development Associates Inc. of Sagamore and Norton, and was an authorized dealer for Westchester Modular Homes of Wingdale, New York. As a result of the complaints against him, Westchester has severed ties with Mr. Shulman; he is no longer listed on the company’s website as an authorized dealer.

Mr. Shulman is now doing business under the name AffordableModular Houses which has an office in Sandwich, although the business’s phone number, which goes into a voicemail system, still announces it is for Realty Development Associates.

Mr. Shulman responded to requests for comment by e-mail. He explained he was currently off-Cape and unavailable to discuss the matter, but said there was “a great deal of inaccurate &/or misinformation intentionally being circulated” about the case, including that “there is no company named Affordable Modular Homes...Realty Development Associates is the only operating company.”

“Due to pending litigation as well as potential future actions, I can not specifically comment on individual allegations,” he added.

Among the other complaints:
• Subcontractors hired by Mr. Shulman were often late, or never showed up;
• Subcontractors hired by Mr. Shulman performed shoddy work, forcing the customers to pay extra to fix the problems;
• Subcontractors who never received their pay from Mr. Shulman pressed the customers to pay them directly, threatening to leave work on their homes incomplete if they did not pay;
• Requests for refunds for incomplete projects, or reimbursements for costs paid by the customers out-of-pocket, were never reimbursed by Mr. Shulman despite his promises to do so;
• Projects saw long stretches of time during which no work was performed on the houses, with no explanations given for the delays;
• Promises of expedited deliveries and work in exchange for rush fees and additional advance payments went unfulfilled.

The clients estimated that they have paid Mr. Shulman in total $1 to $2 million.

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