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Williamsport contractor charged with 37 felonies by state AG

In early March 2021, Catherine Forte signed a contract with Michael William Bloom’s Keystone Lift and Elevator Co. at 1203 Penn St. in the city to have an elevator installed in her home, according to investigators. The work was expected to start last November, taking “three to five days,” and by the end of October, the woman had paid Bloom $24,500 for the project.

The work was never done and Forte has never seen a dime of her money, the state Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigations alleged in an eight page affidavit filed Monday at the office of District Judge Aaron Biichle.

“By the time Forte realized that her agreement with Bloom was a ‘scam,’ she could not reach or locate him. She called the company, but it was gone and closed. She sent an email, but she received no response. These were attempts to get her refund and find out why Bloom did what he did to her,” Special Agent David Scicchitano said in the affidavit.

Investigators allege that Bloom, who turned 44 last week and who carried a local address of 426 Brandon Ave., failed to honor contracts his company signed with at least six clients to install elevators in their homes. Four of the victims are elderly, court records stated. Scicchitano alleges that Bloom collected nearly $90,000 from the people, but never did any work nor did he refund their money.

Except in one case, court records did not say in what communities the victims lived.

Bloom was arraigned before Biichle on a total of 37 felony charges, including 18 counts of theft, 12 counts of home improvement fraud, six counts of deceptive business practices and one count of dealing in proceeds of illegal activity. He was released on $75,000 bail.

Another victim, Russell Fishkind, signed a contract with Bloom’s company in October 2021 to install an elevator in his house the following month, Scicchitano said.

“Fishkind wired $17,750 to Keystone Lift on Nov. 8 ‘at the direction of Bloom,'” and like Forte, Fishkind was told that the work would start on Nov. 29 and be completed in five days, the investigator said.

After sending Bloom the money, Fishkind “called Bloom’s office several times and left voicemails. He never got a call back. He also sent him emails, but did not get a response,” the affidavit stated.

Fishkind told investigators “One Sunday afternoon I called and he actually picked up. He said he was delayed and apologized profusely, saying the elevator would be installed in the coming week. Of course that never happened.” The client told Scicchitano that he “would ask Bloom for a refund, but he could never get a hold of him and no one would respond.”

It was pretty much that same frustrating scenario for client Rhae Kennedy, who lost her $9,860 down payment she gave Bloom for a $29,000 project to install an elevator in her home last November, Scicchitano said.

Kennedy had first gone to Bloom’s showroom last August and tested an elevator, and that a sales representative then came to her home, court records stated. After making her down payment, “Bloom disappeared,” Kennedy told investigators. “Kennedy said Bloom never did the work that was agreed to in the contract and he never refunded her money,” Scicchitano said.

In a criminal complaint, the investigator said the other victims were client Fred Wieder, who was out $22,000; client George Fulton, who lost $12,000, and Pittsburgh resident John O’Master, who was out $3,000.

Before he signed contracts with four of the victims, Bloom was already embroiled in legal problems in Luzerne County, where he was convicted in late April 2021 of home improvement fraud and related felonies, Scicchitano said. Sentenced in three cases three months later, Bloom was ordered to pay a total of $41,300 in restitution to the victims and his contractor registration under the Pennsylvania Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act was revoked, the investigator said.

The state Attorney General’s Office advises anyone who believes they or a family member have been a victim of Bloom should call the Bureau of Consumer Protection at 1-800-441-2555.

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