Monroe contractor could avoid jail time in theft

EVERETT — A Monroe contractor convicted of stealing from clients won’t see the inside of a jail cell if he completes 240 hours of community service.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge George Appel on Tuesday agreed to spare James Platt, 66, a jail sentence in large part because the defendant paid off the $450,000 settlement reached in the civil lawsuit filed by the victims in 2008.

“I will tell you if were it not for the payment, I would put you in jail today,” Appel said.

Platt faced up to 60 days behind bars. He pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree theft. Platt didn’t admit any wrongdoing as part of his plea but acknowledged that a jury likely would convict him.

His plea didn’t sit well with the victims, a husband and wife who hired Platt to build a house in the Kellogg Lake area in east Snohomish County. They urged the judge to send Platt to jail, saying he hasn’t show any remorse.

“He is not a man who believes the rules apply to him,” the woman said Tuesday.

Platt’s attorney, Mark Mestel, of Everett, explained to Appel it was under his advice that his client entered the plea as he did. He was concerned that more civil litigation would follow if Platt admitted any wrongdoing.

“He’s always believed his interpretation of the contract was right,” Mestel said.

Prosecutors alleged that Platt inflated bills from subcontractors and forged invoices to justify the overbilling. Investigators found that Platt and the couple in 2006 signed a contract that included a 17 percent supervision fee for Platt on top of what the subcontractors billed.

Construction began and the first bill was submitted in January 2007. Prosecutors allege Platt overinflated what subcontractors actually charged and based his fee on the bogus bills. He is accused of taking more than he was entitled from an escrow account.

When he was questioned by the couple about the bills, the defendant forged invoices, court papers said.

The unhappy customers sued Platt and a settlement was reached about three years later. Initially, Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies spoke with the customers in 2010 about the case. At that time, the couple said they were concerned a criminal investigation would jeopardize their lawsuit, court papers said. Prosecutors spoke with the couple in 2012 and decided to move forward with filing a criminal charge.

Platt has 10 months to complete his community service or he’ll face going to jail for up to 30 days.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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