‘The man had the nerve to bring second-hand doors from his house and put them in my house’

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A homeowner has described the “hell on earth” he experienced when he asked Andre Curtis to renovate his home.

Mr Curtis is on trial at Supreme Court accused of stealing $141,826 that Andrew Smith paid him in advance to renovate his two-apartment complex in Paradise Lane, Flatts.

According to prosecutor Kirsty-Ann Kiellor, Mr Curtis used the money for paying off debts, and personal transactions that had nothing to do with Mr Smith or his home.

Giving evidence yesterday, Mr Smith told the jury he thought the $271,000 price he agreed with Mr Curtis for the major renovation project in late 2006 was “a fair price with him making a profit”.

He explained he’d known Mr Curtis for 15 years and his mother used to work for a business Mr Curtis ran at Dockyard. She also attended church with him. Mr Smith said of the defendant, who ran the firm Vision Construction: “He portrayed himself to be trustworthy and honest and a man of good character. In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t given him the money in advance.”

He explained that the construction project started well.

“The first couple of weeks went along very efficiently and very nicely,” he recalled. But that didn’t last long. These (subcontractor) guys kept coming to me saying Mr Curtis was not paying them,” said Mr Smith. He recalled Mr Curtis’s reaction as: “Don’t worry about it, I will take care of it.”

After a couple of months, Mr Smith said he discovered Mr Curtis had not obtained the necessary planning permission. The project had to be shut down as a result.

Mr Smith had to pay extra cash to get retroactive planning permission, which took 15 to 16 weeks to go through.

“Oh, it was hell on earth,” he said, telling the jury he had “many” conversations with Mr Curtis over his concerns.

“He always said he knew a person and don’t worry about it. It frustrates me no end, as you can see.”

After the hiatus to get planning permission, Mr Smith said the subcontractors were coming in with a “bad attitude” towards Mr Curtis and productivity “went to hell”.

He also discovered that second-hand fixtures and fittings were being used.

“The man had the nerve to bring second-hand doors from his house and put them in my house,” Mr Smith told the court. “They’re still there, there with the cabinets that he didn’t order.

“They flew in. I had to pay for them out of my own pocket. I was supposed to be compensated for it. It was grief. Just grief.”

A lot of the renovation work was never done, according to him. “The plumbing was not completed. The electricals weren’t completed. The plastering was not completed,” said Mr Smith.

“When it came to the middle and end of this job this man was sending crackheads to my house. People I knew were crackheads. My own personal tools went missing; a $2,000 jack hammer.”

At this point, a visibly frustrated Mr Smith told Chief Justice Richard Ground he needed to take a break from giving evidence.

The judge advised: “I just need you to calm down a bit,” as Mr Smith sipped from a glass of water and took a moment to compose himself.

“I’m not being funny. It’s aggravating to me,” he told the judge as he prepared to continue with his testimony.

When defence lawyer Mark Pettingill inquired if he had ever sought legal advice over a breach of contract by Mr Curtis, Mr Smith confirmed that he had.

He also confirmed that he was invited to go and see the police in 2010, and may have told officers he was not sure if he had grounds for a criminal complaint.

“I don’t have the knowledge of the law like you do,” Mr Smith told Mr Pettingill.

Besides the allegations over the renovation project, Mr Curtis is further accused of stealing funds from Government’s Faith-Based Tourism [FBT] initiative and fabricating a document explaining how he spent money from his $400,000 FBT contract.

He denies two charges of theft and one of false accounting, and the case continues.

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