By Matt Byrne
PORTLAND — The Maine Attorney General's Office of Consumer Protection on Wednesday laid out an extensive case against Portland handyman Daniel Tucci, who allegedly overcharged and underdelivered on fix-it jobs, refinishing projects and major renovations.
In court testimony, customers from Westbrook to Cape Elizabeth described how Tucci, who advertised in local newspapers under several business names, would write numerous estimates, sometimes more than a dozen for a single job, and incrementally ask for more and more money. In two cases, the suit alleges, he convinced elderly residents to borrow money to pay him. Few of those who testified said they received satisfactory work.
"He said he could do anything," said Richard Ashley, 75, a retired police officer who lived in Westbrook when he contracted with Tucci. Ashley and his wife, Barbara, who now live in South Portland, paid $56,589 for an extensive remodeling job, according to court records. The shoddy work brought down the value of their home, which the couple sold at a loss, they said.
"I know we won't get our money back, but I hope (this case) stops this guy from pulling the same shenanigans he pulled," Richard Ashley said.
Tucci's attorney, Rubin G. Segal, declined to comment on the ongoing litigation, but has denied in the past that Tucci was guilty of any wrongdoing.
"I never would bully an elderly person," Tucci said when the civil lawsuit was filed in March of last year by the Attorney General's Office on behalf of the state.
Segal will present his case Thursday, when Tucci is also expected to testify.
If Judge Joyce Wheeler finds Tucci liable, he could face monetary damages and a court order barring him from performing future home improvement work, said Linda Conti, chief of the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General's Office and a litigator on the case.
Customers who testified in Cumberland Superior Court described a pattern of escalating costs and unsatisfactory work.
In the five instances described by victims, Tucci would write proposals for carpentry, plumbing, electrical and refinishing work, then expand the scope of the jobs and pressure homeowners to give him more money. Sometimes a dozen contracts would accumulate for one home.
Some who testified, including Stanley Main of South Portland, said that Tucci's work was not all bad, and that he resisted Tucci's tactics before the losses racked up. Even Richard and Barbara Ashley, then of Westbrook, said they were pleased with the first job Tucci performed -- a renovation of a porch that included installation of new windows. But Main's cost, at $1,015, pales in comparison to some who shelled out vast sums for work that never panned out.
According to a civil complaint filed Tuesday, the Attorney General's Office identified $235,656.43 in losses among 13 customers, ranging from a mere $175 to a botched basement project that cost a Cape Elizabeth couple $139,271.43.
In the most stunning allegation, Tucci agreed to waterproof the Cape Elizabeth couple's basement, a job that took him six months and cost nearly $140,000. When the elderly homeowners, Robert and Wilhelmina Flaherty, removed him from the job, a professional waterproofer said he replaced Tucci's work and did the job right for a tenth of the cost.
"Mr. Tucci would always have a new something that had to be done," testified Julie Newcomb of South Portland.
Newcomb, 54, initially asked Tucci to redo her bathroom, but soon he persuaded her to expand work into her kitchen and living area. He eventually rewired much of her first floor -- but Tucci is not a licensed electrician.
When Tucci suffered a stroke in late 2010, he told Newcomb he would send another contractor to finish the work. Replacement workers never materialized, and she had to hire new contractors. By then, she had already given Tucci more than $11,000.
In an interview, Newcomb said it took nearly a year to bring her house back to livable conditions. "He'd try to be intimidating. Mentally, he wore me down," she said. "This man came in to swindle me."
Staff Writer Matt Byrne can be contacted at: 791-6303 or at