A Toronto-area contractor accused of accepting thousands of dollars in deposits, then disappearing, is still in business despite being charged with fraud and forgery, a Global News investigation has discovered.
Evgeni Ostrovski, 29, of Vaughan, Ont., was charged with fraud under $5,000, forgery and uttering a forged document by Toronto police on June 28.
In mid-August, police issued a public appeal in the belief there may be other victims.
“I’d like to see him go to jail,” said Steven Morrison of Burlington, Ont.
This spring, Morrison found an ad from Ostrovski on the Kijijii website for deck construction. He hired Ostrovski, and paid a $2,500 cash deposit toward a $7,500 total price.
But the result wasn’t what he expected.
When Morrison attempted to get his deposit back from Ostrovski, he said he received crude text messages and Ostrovski refused to return any money.
As a result, Morrison filed complaints with police and took out his own ads on Kijijii in an attempt to warn other possible victims.
One of those people was Victoria Khalil, a chartered account who also lives in Halton Region. She saw an ad for Ostrovski on Kijijii and contracted him to do some interior renovations with a value of about $2,500.
“I needed to sell the house so I needed to find someone to do the work immediately,” Khalil explained, describing why she didn’t do more research first.
Khalil paid more than $1,600 up front to Ostrovski, who “fixed up a few scratches on the walls and ripped off the baseboards in a few rooms.” The work took about an hour.
“He was a normal guy, he didn’t seem suspicious,” she said, not realizing her mistake until afterwards.
“Eventually, he wouldn’t answer any of my calls. I would text him, call him from different numbers, and he wouldn’t answer. And that’s when I knew something was wrong.”
Global News spent several weeks tracking Ostrovski’s online ad posting behavior, discovering a slew of ads under a variety of company names he was using.
Some included The Handymen Repairs, Maintenance from A-Z and Optimal Renovations.
He also allegedly advertised for spray foam insulation services and painting without using specific company names, in addition to posting ads and frequently removing them on the same day.
Ostrovski showed up at a Scarborough home in mid-August to give a deck quote to a Global News viewer who had permitted a television crew to wait for the contractor.
When he arrived, and was confronted about why he accepted money from Morrison and Khalil without finishing the jobs, he said, “I’m sorry.”
As he walked to his SUV, Ostrovski offered no explanation or defence.
“For me, it’s not about the money, it’s about making sure he doesn’t do this to other people,” said Khalil.
Morrison is delighted Ostrovski is facing criminal charges, especially because police originally were reluctant to pursue any cases calling it a “civil matter.”
As for Ostrovski’s ability to sell a project, Morrison acknowledged the contractor’s persuasive skills.
“He’s very good at what he does. He got me.”
Kyle Edwards contributed to this report