Multiple victims allege contractor fraud after $40K deposited to Ajax company for incomplete work

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Published March 24, 2022 at 2:44 pm

Multiple families have come forward to allege contractor fraud against Ajax-based Trusted Remodelling after giving owner Janarthanan Sathianathan (aka Jay Nathan) nearly $40,000 collectively for work they claim Sathianathan later abandoned.

The allegations stretch back to January 2021, with a family who alleges placing a $1,500 deposit for uncompleted work. The following summer, Aamir Amla, a healthcare project manager, hired Sathianathan to renovate his basement and install a charging station in the garage for his new Tesla.

Amla and Sathianathan signed a contract on June 28 which stipulated the work would begin on July 8 and be completed within 37 days.

The project would cost $36,900 total, to be paid in three installments of 50 per cent up front, 30 per cent at stage two of the project, and 20 per cent on completion of the work. This would become a theme.

Throughout July, Amla began to send Sathianathan cash for materials and as a deposit. He then sent two installments of $3,000 on July 5 and 8, followed by a draft $12,450 on July 10, according to banking receipts provided by Amla.

On July 13, a week after work was meant to begin, Sathianathan opened a WhatsApp group chat with Amla and his wife Jaituni Desai. A pile of wooden studs arrived that day, and Sathianathan requested half of Amla’s garage to store them, according to the WhatsApp transcripts.

The studs sat in Amla’s garage for two days before framers arrived on July 15. By July 17, the studs began to run low and Amla reached out to Sathianathan to supply more. He promised to bring them the next day but did not show up, which resulted in frustration from the framing crew who also could not reach him.

Days passed and no action was taken in the basement or the garage. Despite repeated assurances from Sathianathan of having an electrician booked to set up the charging station one never arrived as the Tesla delivery date loomed.

By July 18, Amla was plainly frustrated in the group chat, “Jay…we have to talk man…It’s no good that you won’t answer calls,” he said, “This is not working out man.”

Amla and Desai messaged and called Sathianathan repeatedly over the next three days. Desai said “Jay we don’t want this stress. Can we stop all work and discuss. Sathianathan replied only with, “we are waiting for more wood,” and assurances that he will call in time.

In a later interview Amla said once the third deposit was given “he stopped responding to our calls and messages. My wife tried to call from her office phone, a few different phones, and that’s when he’d pick up.”

“We have given you money on time, at least have the courtesy to communicate,” said Desai on July 19. “You said the electrician was booked for today, but no one came. We are cancelling services with you as this is clearly not working out.”

Meanwhile the Tesla arrived, but cannot be driven without a charging station. Amla had to hire a different electrician to install the charger, costing his family an additional $2,000.

This back and forth continued for weeks, with Sathianathan citing issues getting ahold of sub-contractors and backtracked cancellation orders from Amla and Desai as reason for the delay.

Finally, on August 13, nearly three weeks after Sathianathan’s last message promising to send an electrician to install the charge, Amla canceled the contract and said he would be taking legal action, “You have taken $18,950 from us with no work completed. This has been a harrowing experience and has given us a lot of mental stress.”

Amla described his mental stress and marital strife as a result of lost money as, “It’s the mental agony. It has affected our family lives, especially in couples who know how couples make decisions and things don’t go right. There’s always arguments and fights. That has happened with each and every family.”

“This bad instance has left us with a forever wound. The financial losses we can take care of by working extra, working two jobs, but I can say I’ve lost so many sleepless nights. I’ve lost weight.”

With tears in his eyes, he recounted a time he and Desai were arguing in the fallout of their loss. Amla’s 5-year-old daughter heard the fight unfolding and rushed to her room. Amla said, “This young, little girl come out with her piggy bank and says ‘Daddy it’s ok. Jay took your money. You can take my money.’

“We were so…you can’t even think and she’s seeing us fighting” Amla said, voice cracking. “Which is going to happen between couples when something like this happens.

Amla and Desai took the matter to small claims court and to Durham Region police. Detective Constable Thomas Kollaard was assigned to the case.

Amla decided at this point, in the midst of his case, and as the criminal investigation slowly marched on, to spread awareness of his loss and dealings with Sathianathan. He put out multiple public announcements about the situation like the one pictured below.

Numerous self-professed victims of Sathianathan came forward to Amla as a result of his posts. Ultimately, Amla found five additional families who collectively gave Sathianathan nearly $40,000.

One of these families resides in Whitby. They also contracted Sathianathan in July, depositing $10,000 as per Amla. This family did not come forward directly, citing safety concerns.

“Probably he’s scared because his wife is alone at home all the time,” Amla said, “He doesn’t want anything to happen to his wife.” According to Amla, Sathianathan offered to repay the Whitby family, but his cheque bounced.

Amla was also approached by a woman from Pickering. A then-expecting mother, she gave Sathianathan a $1,500 deposit. After her project was not completed, she let it go, not wanting to go through the legal process with a baby on the way.

“Now this guy get more and more confidence,” Amla said, “So he started small and then he went big with me. Once he got that confidence, he started doing four K, he started doing ten K, and I’m sure he’s doing it now.”

The criminal investigation is ongoing and no charges have been laid. However, after a months-long process through small claims court, Amla received a default judgement in his favour from the Oshawa Superior Court in January.

Before Amla cut ties with Sathianathan, he connected Trusted Remodeling with his neighbour Raju Guddadamani, also a project manager, who hired the company for a kitchen renovation, painting and a new laundry room in July 2021. Again, Sathianathan insisted on a three-step payment plan with the first installment set to cover the kitchen.

“He signed the contract. I paid him $3,000. Afterwards…vanish,” Guddadamani said, “He never came. He’s not picking up my phone. Nothing else. None.” Guddadamani met with Sathianathan only twice and had no further contact after putting his deposit down. “He never came to my place. He never answered.”

A month ago, Sathianathan texted Guddadamani saying he could begin the work. Guddadamani had already joined Amla’s police complaint, and by this time had the work completed in preparation to sell the house.

The sale was delayed while waiting for Sathianathan to come to work. “I lost the sellers market because everything was delayed” Guddadamani said.

Another family is that of Ajith Shanbhag, an RBC IT worker who contracted Sathianathan in January 2022 for a kitchen remodel. “That’s the pain part. This is not easy. I work in IT and we get lots of phishing emails. We try not to get into such kinds of fraud. Even with the knowledge, we still get in to these frauds.”

Shanbhag did his research on Sathianathan, finding open Facebook and Instagram pages and an active website, now defunct and flagged as a scam. Sathianathan did not reply to a request for comment.

After Shanbhag’s background check, he gave Sathianathan $6,500 dollars, according to Interact e-transfer receipts. Like in Amla’s case, Sathianathan began work. Shanbhag’s kitchen was gutted of cabinetry, counters and the sink.

Holes were drilled into the ceiling for potlights, one of which went through the ceiling and damaged the flooring in Shabhag’s upstairs bedroom.

Throughout the early renovation period, Shanbhag repeatedly asked to see Sathianathan’s work, which Sathianathan claimed was being done off-site. Citing COVID-19 restrictions, Sathianathan never showed Shanbhag the work.

After gutting the kitchen, Sathianathan claimed stage one complete, contrary to definition of completion in the contract, according to Shanbhag. He then requested the second payment installment.

Shanbhag is a first-time homebuyer and planned his move-in date around Sathianathan’s project timeline, which was delayed when the project halted. Shanbhag eventually moved in, but had to wash his dishes in a basement sink for three weeks.

However, Shanbhag found Amla’s announcement claiming fraud, and upon realizing the situation, did not send any more cash. The kitchen was never completed, and Shanbhag had to hire a different contractor to finish it.

Sathianathan (right) in the Shanbhag home discussing renovations that would not be completed.

“I hired a new contractor and I was so afraid to pay him as well,” Shanbhag said. However, the new contractor completed the work so that “you cannot even tell he messed up my kitchen.” However, “it was very hard convince” another contractor to repair the kitchen before the actual renovation could take place.

Amla reinforced the difficulty in trusting after his losses, “We want to do something better for your house and you run into these kinds of people and such scenario which really leaves a bad taste.”

“Looks like the guy has become an expert at doing fraud,” said Shanbhag, “He knows how to get the people’s money and he knows nothing works out against him. We don’t want to trust anybody. That should not be the case.” Guddadamani agreed, “We can’t trust anybody else.”

Like Amla and Guddadamani, Shanbhag agreed to a three stage payment plan and put down a deposit. Unlike the others, he is on the fence about pursuing the issue through the courts due to the prohibitive cost of a lawyer.

“I pray no one should get into this kind of trouble, especially first-time homebuyers when you invest all your money an end up using up to zero savings in your account. Then you wind up in this scenario where you lose two to three months of your salary.”

He has, however, sent his story, photos and additional evidence to D/CST Kollaard with the understanding it adds to the police case.

Following the judgement and after some pressure from Kollaard, Sathianathan signed a monthly repayment agreement with Amla, with arrest on the table and liens on his cars should he not meet the stipulations.

However, Amla says he’s yet to receive a dime, “There was delay, delay, delay. He sold off his cars that were on lien and got new cars. I have received no cheque.”

“We’ve given up. We’re not going to get our money back. We’ve written it off.” However, Amla hopes spreading the word will prevent other families from being defrauded.

Speaking of Shahbag and Guddadamani, Amla laments that their losses may have been avoided with more proactive police action, “These guys could have been stopped. They could have been not victimized. Because of this lengthy process, probably my case is not that important, the other two families also got affected.”

“It’s been eight months and still there isn’t any closure to it,” he continued.

“These are only the families that I know that have come forward.” Amla said, “I’m sure there are more families that have not.”

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