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Hamptons Life

Mar 21, 2016 1:31 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Water Mill Homeowners Win Restitution From Local Contractor

The Lippners commissioned an addition and new pool at their house in Water Mill. SOUTHAMPTON TOWN
Mar 21, 2016 2:02 PM

The owners of a Water Mill property will be paid restitution from a Westhampton-based architect for renovations to the home that were never completed, following a plea deal signed earlier this month.

According to documents filed in State Supreme Court, Manhattan residents Jordan and Jennifer Lippner were attempting to renovate a second home at 221 Water Mill-Towd Road when they hired the architect William R. Mitchell to perform an estimated $450,000 worth of renovations and expansion at the home. However, after several months, the renovations were left incomplete, and Mr. Mitchell had stopped paying subcontractors to perform the work, according to the civil lawsuit.

Eventually, the Suffolk County district attorney’s office charged Mr. Mitchell with violating lien laws by using money from one client to pay a contractor working on a different project.

In a transcript of a plea deal, dated March 3, regarding the county charges, Mr. Mitchell pleaded guilty to one count of petit larceny for spending up to $55,643.50 of the Lippners’ money on projects other than their home renovation. As part of the deal, Mr. Mitchell will serve one year of probation, during which he will have to comply with state regulations to get his contractor’s license back.

“The Lippners paid defendants the full amount called for by the contract for all the work, and, in return, defendants breached the parties’ contract, completely ceased working on the Lippners’ house and left it in an unlivable and unusable condition, with not even a single room completed or a single working toilet installed,” the plaintiffs’ attorney alleged in the civil lawsuit.

Proposed work that Mr. Mitchell was supposed to carry out included gut-renovating the entire home, building an addition and replacing an existing pool.

The Lippners say they have paid over $600,000 to the defendant and have had none of the work on the house completed. It is unclear if Mr. Mitchell will have to pay back all of the money paid by the Lippners, or only the $55,000 mentioned in immediate restitution.

Although the criminal charges against Mr. Mitchell have been settled with the plea deal, the civil suit filed by the Lippners is still active. According to their attorney, Scott Klein of the Manhattan-based firm Mintz & Gold, the lawsuit temporarily had been put on hold by the courts while the criminal charges were resolved. Now that a plea deal has been reached, Mr. Klein said, his clients want to move forward with the case to receive the rest of the $600,000.

“We are pleased that the Suffolk district attorney prosecuted him for his wrongdoing,” Mr. Klein said in a phone interview this week. “We believe that the money we have received is a good start, but we are owed significantly more, which is why we are continuing to prosecute the claims.”

Calls to Mr. Mitchell’s attorney, Martin Lorenzotti of Central Islip, were not returned, and Mr. Mitchell declined to comment for publication.

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