Father and son accused of similar crimes – NBC Boston

Father and son accused of similar crimes – NBC Boston

When Paul Kless hired Donald McNeil to build an addition at his Bridgewater home in 2017, the contractor’s career as a Randolph firefighter provided added peace of mind.

After years of saving up, Kless and his wife, Susan, wanted to add space for their family of three growing boys.

“This is somebody trustworthy,” Kless remembers thinking. “I so blindly trusted this guy I never saw any red flags after I wrote him check after check.”

Before the project even got off the ground, Kless received a stunning call from the contractor. McNeil informed Kless that he would be filing for bankruptcy and the homeowner’s savings were gone.

“I was stunned, shocked and angry,” Kless said. “We lost a little over $69,000. It was crushing. A lot of my friends don’t know this happened to me because I’m too embarrassed to tell them.”

The money problems for McNeil snowballed quickly, according to criminal records in Plymouth and Norfolk counties.

A number of homeowners reported to police they were out large sums of money. Subcontractors said McNeil promised to pay them for work they had performed only to have the checks bounce at the bank.

Pat Gibbs owns a landscaping company and served on the fire department with McNeil, sometimes picking up side gigs on his fellow firefighter’s home improvement projects.

“The excuses were happening more and more,” Gibbs said. “It was pretty evident that something was going on.”

After Gibbs completed a $30,000 outdoor project at a Needham home, the payment from McNeil was delayed. The contractor eventually provided a check. When Gibbs tried to deposit the money, the bank returned the check for insufficient funds.

He was not the only firefighter in the department owed money, according to court records.

“It was all deliberate, intentional and premeditated,” Gibbs said. “I took it pretty personally.”

McNeil filed for bankruptcy and later faced a slew of larceny charges related to all the bounced checks and incomplete home improvement projects.

The criminal cases forced him to take an early retirement from the Randolph Fire Department. Town records show he is collecting a monthly pension of about $2,600.

Liam McNeil, a nurse practitioner, allegedly ripped off homeowners with his side hustle.

During one criminal case at Dedham District Court, a Needham homeowner described the toll of losing nearly $100,000 on her failed project, saying the contractor treated her family “like an ATM machine.”

“Don McNeil preyed on families like ours, taking advantage of his power and professional status to build our trust while he engaged in a scheme to steal our money,” the homeowner told the judge. “He has absolutely devastated my family, both emotionally and financially.”

The judge sentenced McNeil to 30 days in jail and five years of probation, ordering him to pay restitution and surrender his contractor’s license. During the hearing, court audio indicates the judge was clearly perplexed by the large sums of missing money.

“It just doesn’t add up,” the judge said. “I just don’t understand how you run a business and you’re doing major renovations on people’s homes. You don’t have any assets. I don’t understand that.”

That conviction happened in 2019 and you might be wondering, why are you reporting this now?

Because Don McNeil’s son, Liam, is a nurse practitioner who was also recently moonlighting as a contractor.

As an NBC10 investigation detailed earlier this month, Liam McNeil is accused of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from customers and trying to get the debts wiped away by bankruptcy. Some of the alleged victims even include his fellow doctors and nurses.

“He pulled a fast one on me,” said Jen Rowan, a nurse who worked with him at a South Shore hospital.

When we questioned Liam McNeil about all the angry homeowners, he told us he “felt horrible about the whole thing,” but did not offer any specific explanation. We also asked him about the similarities to what happened to his dad a few years earlier.

Homeowners, including some former coworkers in health care, say nurse practitioner Liam McNeil ripped them off while moonlighting as a contractor. NBC10 Boston Investigator Ryan Kath spoke with him about the allegations.

“His was a little different. I don’t really know the details of it,” Liam McNeil said. “I think his was… I don’t know what the word is, but I think it was a lot different.”

Is it really that different? Both father and son had a tough time explaining what happened to customer funds during bankruptcy hearings, according to audio recordings we obtained.

For instance, Don McNeil admitted that he lied to Paul Kless, the Bridgewater homeowner, to get him to write an $18,000 check that he said was to purchase lumber.

Workers for Liam McNeil say they are still owed paychecks and told us they performed renovation work at the contractor’s Weymouth home last year in the months leading up to the bankruptcy. Their claim is supported by photos they shared with us and permit records filed with the town building department.

Meantime, while his bankruptcy and criminal cases played out, Donald McNeil rented a Marshfield home from his in-laws.

Land records show his wife purchased the home from her parents a couple of years ago. The property, located a stone’s throw from the ocean, has undergone significant renovations, according to photos and building permits we obtained.

Donald McNeil’s probation ended last October. Victims told us that is when he stopped making monthly restitution payments that had been ordered as part of the criminal sentence.

“You did 30 days in jail and then paid a fraction of it to a few people?” said Gibbs, who said he is still owed more than half of the $30,000 in restitution. “That’s not justice. That’s a slap on the wrist. In my eyes, he’s gotten away with it.”

Reached by phone, Donald McNeil said he took out some high-interest loans and could not keep up with the bills when his financial situation as a business owner quickly deteriorated.

“It’s very unfortunate and I apologize,” he said. “I paid for my mistakes and did everything I was asked to do by the court.”

Donald McNeil also said he had no involvement with his son’s contracting business and had advised him to stay out of the industry. 

Liam McNeil’s bankruptcy is pending. The trustee overseeing the case is expected to make a recommendation next month.

Court records show Donald McNeil’s bankruptcy was not approved and he waived his discharge in 2019 when the trustee continued raising questions about business records and the use of funds received from customers on incomplete home improvement projects.

This means that people with a civil judgment can still try to collect what they are owed, but would need to find assets to pursue from Donald McNeil.

Years later, Kless said he still has yet to receive a dime. He and customers of two different generations now believe their similar ordeals are more than just a coincidence.

“His son probably looks at his dad and goes, ‘What happened to him?’ The penalties don’t seem to equate to what he stole from several families,” Kless said. “It’s just infuriating.”

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Originally Appeared Here