White River Junction man sentenced in home improvement fraud case

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/5/2019 8:46:22 PM
Modified: 11/5/2019 8:46:15 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — A White River Junction man pleaded no contest Tuesday to charges that he defrauded a Hartford resident out of $3,000 after promising to build him a deck.

Richard Whitcomb Jr., 40, who is currently in federal custody on an unrelated firearms charge and is considered a suspect in the disappearance of Royalton resident Austin Colson, was sentenced to nine to 10 days in jail for the misdemeanor charge of home improvement fraud.

The conviction stems from a November 2017 incident when Hartford resident Roger Tenney asked Whitcomb to repair and rebuild a deck outside his home. Whitcomb agreed and deposited a $3,000 check from Tenney for the job, according to prosecutors. However, Whitcomb never built the deck and didn’t reply to calls and messages from Tenney and his family asking for a refund, Windsor County Deputy State’s Attorney Ward Goodenough said Tuesday.

The fraud charge was originally listed as a felony but was changed to a misdemeanor Tuesday. Goodenough said Whitcomb refunded the money to Tenney over a year ago.

Whitcomb, who was wearing a button-down shirt and khaki pants and was handcuffed, said little during the proceeding other than to enter his plea.

He is currently facing a 37-month sentence in a federal firearms case and will serve the fraud sentence concurrently, according to the plea agreement. Whitcomb, who is a felon and not allowed to possess a handgun, was charged in February 2018 with having a .32-caliber pistol the month before. He has pleaded guilty to the charge and his sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 8.

Police discovered evidence to support the gun charge as they were investigating the 2018 disappearance of 19-year-old Colson. Whitcomb has been considered a suspect in the teenager’s disappearance, according to federal court documents.

Colson disappeared Jan. 11, 2018, the same day family members have said he was going to collect scrap metal with Whitcomb. His body was found in April of that year in a Norwich barn where Whitcomb had served as a caretaker, according to police.

Colson was shot in the head and his death has been ruled a homicide, but no one has been charged in the case.

Anna Merriman can be reached at amerriman@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.

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