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Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
9:56 AM Sat, Jan. 19th

Contractor enters plea in lieu of trial

PRESCOTT – Contractor Matthew Benjamin Dougan decided to plead guilty on Wednesday to three felony charges rather than face a trial on 12 counts next week.

The charges including two counts of forgery, four counts of theft, four counts of fraudulent schemes, and two counts of contracting without a license stem from a number of home projects that he failed to complete in the Prescott area.

The 39-year-old defendant from Prescott pleaded guilty to fraudulent schemes and artifices, a Class 2 felony, and to two counts of forgery, Class 4 felonies.

Yavapai County Superior Court Judge William Kiger could sentence Dougan to 12.5 years in prison if he finds strong aggravating circumstances. Probation is available for a term not to exceed seven years. Dougan also faces a $150,000 maximum fine for each felony plus 77 percent surcharges, according to the plea agreement.

Restitution of economic loss to eight victims will not exceed $500,000, the agreement states.

Before Kiger accepted the plea he asked the defendant whether he understands that he is receiving some benefit by pleading guilty because he would face a mandatory prison term if a jury were to convict him on charges a grand jury indicted him on.

Dougan said that he understands the benefit and that no one forced him into this agreement.

In January 2003, authorities arrested Dougan after a two-year investigation that began after a local couple, Richard Miller and Darlene Dunning, filed a complaint with the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office in December 2000.

Miller and Dunning made a deal with Dougan to design and build their home in Walker for about $170,000.

Problems began when Dougan failed to finish the work for which he received payment, Miller said previously. Dougan completed only one-third of the work on their home, although they paid him about $147,000, or 88 percent of the agreed amount.

With the work still incomplete, Dougan abandoned the site in November 2000.

Meanwhile, an investigator with the Yavapai County Attorney's Office uncovered three other couples who suffered losses at Dougan's hands.

During Wednesday's hearing, Deputy Yavapai County Attorney Steve Young said not only did Dougan leave the projects incomplete, but the work he performed is substandard and not up to code.

"He would draw money from one victim to catch up on other projects," he said.

In addition, he forged a $55 invoice to read $5,510 and submitted it to the victims, who uncovered the scam by calling the business that issued it. And he never obtained a building permit for one home he entered a contract to build, Young said.

After the hearing, Young said it was a fair plea and that he hopes the victims will receive restitution from Dougan.

Kiger set sentencing at 3:30 p.m. on May 19.