NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

March 25, 2014

Our view: Judge takes right step with fraudulent contractor

James McCarthy is a menace, prosecutors say.

The 53-year-old contractor from Boxford has bilked homeowners and developers across Eastern Massachusetts of tens of thousands of dollars for jobs that were either shoddily done or not done at all, they say.

In the process, they say, he has put lives at risk and needs to be stopped.

So we cheer Salem Superior Court Judge John Lu’s decision to hold McCarthy on $400,000 bail and impose tight restrictions on any release.

If McCarthy makes bail, the judge said, he must remain under house arrest except for medical emergencies and court appearances. The judge also banned McCarthy from using the Internet or even having a connection to the web in his home. And he can’t use a smartphone. It’s back to the ’80s for McCarthy.

Prosecutors had asked for even higher bail, $1 million, citing McCarthy’s threat to the community.

That sounded extreme to defense lawyer Scott Gleason of Haverhill.

“There are murderers, rapists, who’ve never been requested to have bail like that,” he said, suggesting the case was only about “a few thousand bucks.”

Really? Consider the charges against McCarthy, as detailed by court reporter Julie Manganis:

Last fall, McCarthy persuaded Judge Lu to reduce his bail from $10,000 to $7,500 in a contractor fraud case so he could get out of jail.

When he posted the bail and was released, McCarthy went back to his fraudulent ways, prosecutors say.

By then his name was mud, so he chose to work under a series of aliases — names borrowed from legitimate home improvement contractors, authorities say.

Last December, McCarthy took a job demolishing a cottage on Plum Island under the name “Jeff Schwartz,” using not only a stolen or bogus name but also an insurance binder with the forged name of an insurance agent who had died months earlier, according to prosecutors.

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