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Salem, Massachusetts — Paul G. Kauranen, 59, of Walpole, pleaded not guilty today in Salem Superior Court to 25 criminal indictments charging him with larceny over $250, money laundering, falsely holding himself out as a landscape architect and engineer, identity theft, forgery, uttering, and being a common and notorious thief.
Judge Thomas Drechsler ordered bail set at $500,000.
In materials filed with the Court as part of a request for bail, Essex Assistant District Attorney Philip Mallard described the nature of the offenses where the defendant is alleged to have stolen over $500,000 from 14 victims since January 2016. Specifically, the defendant, who is not and has never been licensed as a landscape architect or land surveyor with the Division of Professional Licensure, is alleged to have owned and operated an entity Allure Design Landscape Architects and Construction Services. As part of the defendant’s efforts to legitimize this entity, the defendant stole the identity of a licensed landscape architect and placed that person’s name and photograph on the Allure Design website, along with various other credentials and awards that were false.
Through Allure Design Landscape Architects and Construction Services, the defendant is alleged to have defrauded 14 families from around the Commonwealth by fraudulently entering into agreements for landscape architectural and construction services. The defendant is alleged to have induced the homeowners to enter into these agreements under the false pretenses of being licensed as a landscape architect and, for some victims, as an engineer or surveyor. Additionally, from the number of victims where the pattern is repeated, the defendant is alleged to have intended to steal the money he received through the scheme, and never in fact intended to complete the projects at the time he entered into the agreements.
For many of the homeowners, after the defendant conducted initial demolition of the homeowners’ yards (stripping the soil and demolishing existing landscaping), the defendant is alleged to have requested payment upfront for the purchase of materials, plants and trees. Once he received the upfront payment for materials, the defendant is alleged to have repeatedly refused to return to the jobsites, would not complete the projects, and would not refund the tens of thousands of dollars that he had taken upfront. The materials, plants and trees he claimed to have obtained were never actually purchased, and many homeowners were left with destroyed backyards, and none of the materials, plants or trees that they had paid the defendant for. These homeowners were then forced to pay additional funds to remedy their torn-ups yards and undo the small amount of work that the defendant conducted.
For three of the families, the defendant is alleged to have accepted thousands of dollars in initial deposits and then refused to even commence the work and refused to refund the deposits. Additionally, after defrauding a Shrewsbury couple, the defendant is alleged to have forged a $35,000 check in their name payable to himself, and cashed it at a Norwood check cashing entity. That forged check was later returned for insufficient funds, and the defendant is alleged to have obtained a second $35,000 check from another victim, which he then used to pay off the check cashing entity who was owed the $35,000 from the forged check.
The indictments allege the following crimes, and approximate amount of theft:
- Falsely Holding Oneself out as a Licensed Landscape Architect
- Falsely Holding Oneself out as a Licensed Engineer/Surveyor
- Theft of $20,000 from a Natick couple
- Theft of $20,000 a Marion couple
- Theft of $84,000 from a Shrewsbury couple
- Theft of $22,000 from a Westwood couple
- Theft of $46,000 from a Medfield couple
- Theft of $32,000 from a Middleton couple
- Theft of $45,000 from a Brookline couple
- Theft of $5,000 from a Chestnut Hill couple
- Theft of $750 from a Middleton couple
- Theft of $26,500 from a Westwood couple
- Theft of $68,200 from a Newburyport couple
- Theft of $26,300 from a Medfield couple
- Theft of $85,000 from a Chestnut Hill man
- Theft of $19,000 from a Belmont couple
- Two counts of Money Laundering
- Identity Theft (landscape architect)
- Forgery of a Check
- Uttering a Forged Check
- Identity Theft (Shrewsbury couple)
- Theft of $35,000 from a Norwood check cashing entity
- Theft of $10,000 from a Plymouth Landscape Supply company
- Being a Common and Notorious Thief
The case was investigated by Officer Kevin Warwick of the Shrewsbury Police Department, and Sergeant Robert LaBarge of the Massachusetts State Police, assigned to the Essex County Detective Unit. Assistance was provided by the Division of Professional Licensure, Office of Investigations, the Massachusetts Insurance Fraud Bureau, Newburyport Police, and Middleton Police.
Essex County Assistant District Attorney Philip Mallard is prosecuting the case.
These crimes, which took place around the Commonwealth, were investigated and charged in Essex County through the use of a recently enacted statute that permits the prosecution of multi-incident fraud and property crimes in any county where at least one of the incidents took place.
The defendant is currently serving a sentence imposed out of Stoughton District Court for violating his probation by committing the offenses described above. He is also held without bail on other pending criminal cases in Wrentham District Court and Dedham District Court unrelated to the crimes charged in these indictments.
The defendant is represented by Attorney Brendan Kelly for bail purposes is presumed innocent of the charges until proven guilty.
The Commonwealth filed a motion contesting the defendant’s claim of indigence. A preliminary hearing on that motion is scheduled for November 27, 2017.