A contractor accused of swindling homeowners and former employees in multiple states across the West, including Montana, was found guilty by a jury Dec. 9 on three felony counts of wire fraud in U.S. District Court in Missoula.
John Robert Mulinski, 50, a resident of Covington, Wash., faces possible penalties of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. Mulinski had been charged with eight felony counts of wire fraud following an investigation by the United States Secret Service.
Sentencing is set for March 23, 2012. Mulinski has been released on special conditions. According to news accounts out of Washington’s Seattle area, Mulinski is also facing 17 counts of felony theft for similar allegations there.
In November of 2010, the Beacon published a story about accumulating complaints of misconduct against Mulinski’s business Sunrise Quality Construction. Homeowners in the Flathead Valley and elsewhere said Mulinski took payments and then left projects unfinished, while also failing to compensate his employees. The complaints prompted an investigation by state Department of Labor and Industry.
At the time, Mulinski was facing 15 felonies in Washington and various charges in California for contractor-related accusations. Prosecutors said he had bilked homeowners, a restaurateur and former employees out of more than $1 million in Washington alone.
In a follow-up Beacon story in January of this year called “Ripped Off: How One Contractor Swindled Montana,” an investigator from the Department of Labor and Industry said the Mulinski investigation had swelled into “the biggest case I’ve run across in Montana.”
Mulinski was accused of taking roofing jobs and then ditching out after accepting payment, leaving homes without roofs in the middle of winter. Investigators said he initially worked out of the Flathead Valley but then began to focus primarily on the Great Falls area.
In April, the Montana Department of Labor and Industry issued its largest fine ever on a contractor, levying $40,000 against Mulinski and his company Sunrise Quality Construction.
Many of the same complaints that arose in the labor department’s investigation were brought up in the criminal trial last week. In addition to homeowners and employees, Mulinski was accused of shortchanging newspapers and radio stations that ran his ads and then didn’t receive full payment, according to news reports of the trial.
Mulinski’s week-long trial was held before U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy beginning Dec. 5 in Missoula and ending with the jury’s decision on Dec. 9. U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Racicot prosecuted the case.
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