The best deal Ted Diamond made in California the past year, aside from the bargain-basement bids he gave unsuspecting victims of his fencing-contractor scam, was the plea deal that reduced the charges against him to single felony counts of identity theft and grand theft felony counts and two counts of misdemeanor petty theft.
Diamond, a former Moodus fencing-business owner, is still a convicted felon who's serving a 270-day sentence in Todd Road Jail in Santa Paula, Calif., after sentencing in early October. Not too bad considering he faced seven felony counts — five for identity theft, two for grand theft — and close to four years in jail after using the bid forms from a local fencing company to solicit down payments with unusually low bids.
That, according to police reports, breaks down to at least seven known victims and thousands of dollars lost. Diamond, who identified himself to victims as an owner of the fencing company, could be out of jail as soon as January.
"It's a joke," says Andre Stikkelman, the actual owner of Guardian Fence Co., who briefly employed Diamond before he co-opted the company's name and bid sheets in his scheme. "We were awarded $20,500 and all the homeowners [were awarded restitution]. He did not fight the restitution. Everyone believes it's because he will take off and relocate only to do it somewhere else."
Diamond had already relocated once, from Moodus, where he ran a fencing company until leaving Connecticut after a West Hartford homeowner filed a complaint with the town's police department. The homeowner, Gary Dinowitz, says he gave Diamond a $2,000 deposit after receiving a below-market rate for cedar fencing. A work crew dug some holes and removed some fencing the next day but never returned.
"I will never see a cent back from him," says Dinowitz, who turned the experience into a business selling cedar fencing (www.wholesalecedarfence.com). "It's not worth keeping him in jail. It costs more [to keep him there] and he is nonviolent."
The previous summer, Diamond was sued for $7,000 in unpaid bills by a fencing supplier. Meanwhile, the state Department of Consumer Protection and the state attorney general's office were searching for more victims while investigating Diamond, an unregistered contractor.
Stikkelman, who owns Guardian Fence Co. in Simi Valley, Calif., with his wife, Deanna, tried to preserve his company's reputation by completing a work bid by Diamond. Sometimes, that's not enough.
"We are currently being sued by two families," says Deanna Stikkelman, "which is a huge inconvenience and will just remind us probably over the next year and a half of this loser felon. . . . I pray every day he gets his Karma back slowly the rest of his life."
Diamond's scheme lasted until Terry Winter of Moorpark, Calif., couldn't read a copy of a bid left by a neighbor whose property share's a wrought-iron fence with Winter's. When a snail slid across the phony fencing bid overnight, obscuring Diamond's handwritten number, Winter instead left a message at the Guardian Fence office.
That's how Stikkelman found out Diamond was using his company's name fraudulently. Winter, who lost only $475, says she's satisfied with Diamond's sentence because he received more than the minimum sentence.
"Of course I would have loved if Ted had gotten the maximum sentence," she says. "What was more upsetting to me is the number of felonies that were reduced when Ted pleaded down at the preliminary hearing. The ability to drop so many felonies seems a crime in itself."
The case against Diamond in Connecticut is moving more slowly. The state attorney general's office says only that the investigation is ongoing and asks that any victims call the office's consumer protection unit at 860-808-5400.
"[Victims] out there seem to be too busy to follow through," says Deanna Stikkelman, "so lucky for Mr. Diamond. "If homeowner victims there still press charges via police reports, it will help and at least they can try to get restitution."
Diamond will remain a California resident at least until sometime in January and possibly longer. Winter, for one, is happy to have him in her state.
"I'm glad he will be stuck behind bars for a little while longer," she says. "When he's out, I hope he leaves our town and never comes back, although the country is better off if he does stick around because we all know who is out here. Keep your enemies closer, right?"