CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A heating and cooling contractor who bilked customers out of more than $30,000 to fund his gambling habit was released from jail Tuesday to spend the rest of his sentence on probation.
Gary Lomax, 50, of St. Albans, has already spent 509 days behind bars since he was arrested in November 2011. He was sentenced to three one- to 10-years sentences for each felony conviction of obtaining by false pretenses, but allowed to serve five years probation instead.
But Kanawha Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey said, "I feel strongly that you should not be out and about among the citizens of this community because of your conduct. But I don't think the jail system needs to bear any further expense.
"It's time for you to get on with the business of paying back," she said.
Lomax was ordered to make restitution to eight victims, including an 83-year-old woman who gave him more than $11,000 but Lomax never did any of the work he promised.
Her daughter, Anita Stonestreet, was in court to speak about that fraud. She said Lomax told her mother she needed repairs, mold treatment, insulation, a sump pump, a humidifier, a French drain in her backyard, a UV lighting system and other work.
He collected much of the money up front, returning to the victim over and over again until Stonestreet intervened after investigating him.
"You showed a total lack of respect for her life," she said of her mother. "I believe the stress he caused her contributed to a stroke she had. But even after the stroke, he kept coming back asking for more money."
When another company was called in, they determined none of the equipment or work Lomax said he had done was actually there. Some of the plumbing repairs were done backwards.