George Binakis Bespoke Contracting and Design Inc. Defrauded Me
If you do a search for General Contractors or Home Improvement contractors FRAUD, you find results ranging from CONTRACTOR FRAUD - Don't Become a Victim to Home Improvement Contractor Fraud Claim Attorney. AARP offers advice: Here's How to Uncover a Home Improvement Scam. There are articles on Home Improvement Fraud and How To Avoid It and Questions to Ask a Contractor | Before You Hire Them.
I never thought I would be writing this story about George Binakis the principal of Bespoke Contracting and Design Inc. located in Woodside, NY. Like many fraud victims, I completely trusted the person who has duped me out of over $65,000. George had renovated my primary residence three years prior and I believed him to be an honorable person. When I no longer was able to reach George Binakis whom I had hired to do another renovation via email, phone or text, I was more concerned that something serious had happened to him. After weeks going by with no communication from him, I suspected that something was not right. I finally reached out to some of the subcontractors who were working with George on my gut renovation of my husband's studio/ office condo and learned that they too were unable to reach George.
When you read articles about how to approach hiring a contractor, there were some other clear warning signs about George that things were possibly not totally on the level. George requested that all checks be made out to him personally, not to his business. It turns out that several of the subcontractors never received the advances that George claimed he needed my money for. Finally although his firm, Bespoke Contracting and Design Inc., is NY based, the checks were deposited at a bank in Richmond, Virginia.
This is what happened to me.
George Binakis' business:
Bespoke Contracting and Design Inc.
26-12 Borough Place Woodside NY, 11377
Office/Fax # 1.347.256.0559
I had previously done two gut renovations in Manhattan at our primary residence. The first was a combining of the kitchen with a maid's room, plus a small bathroom. The second, a year later was the rest of the apartment. George Binakis had successfully handled both of them as the general contractor. So when I decided to renovate a condo that my husband uses as his office George was an obvious choice among others to consider. George told me that he was quitting his job working for a large contracting company and striking out once again on his own as a general contractor. If I selected him, I would be his first client, although there were several other people who wanted his services as a general contractor for their projects. I spoke with several other contractors but in the end I chose George because I liked his work and he knew my tastes in design and accessories. On 3 July 2019 I gave him a $5,000.00 check as a commitment. Shortly afterwards he requested $4,500.00 as a deposit for the design phase, which included commissioning the architectural drawings required by the building's management company's engineer and for the building's board of managers.
George introduced me to several of the subcontractors who would do the actual work, including the cabinet maker, who had also worked on my previous two renovations. They visited the condo a number of times to take measurements and review the intended changes to the unit. The plan was to get all approvals in place by the end of August 2019 and begin demolition in September.
Looks Like Everything is Moving Along Smoothly
At this point in late July George requested 2 additional checks, one for $20,000 and one for $30,000 to cover expenses. I also gave him $5,500 in cash for which he agreed to give me a reduction in the final cost. He requested that checks be made out to him personally, which should have been a red flag, but I completely trusted him at this point.
According to the cancelled checks, I could see that although George's company was based in NY, the checks have been deposited to a bank account in Richmond Virginia. George kept the cash.
I was in touch with George every 3 times a week during this time as we discussed plans and changes. The last time I spoke or heard from George was July 29th. Since then I have called numerous times, only to find his voicemail box always filled. He stopped replying to texts and emails.
Panic Sets In. Where is George?
I started calling the subcontractors I had been introduced to. Artem Myagkov, who did all the drafting for the job told me he hadn’t heard from George. He had received a $500 retainer and was still owed $2000.00. The architect, Leandro Dickson, had only spoken to George once and had never heard from him again. The subcontractor who had done the bulk of the work in the previous renovations gave me the contact info for the cabinet maker, George Vlamakis
Asked Advice From Lawyers
I have since spoken with several lawyers who all require $5,000 retainer and do not work on consignment. Their hourly billings were $380 - $490 per hour with no assurances that my money could be recovered. We then went to the 24th Precinct in Manhattan to report a financial crime only to be told by PA Marshall that they would not investigate this as a crime - that it was considered a civil matter and should be handled by civil court. I found this unbelieveable. If we could locate George's other victims we might have a better chance in getting law enforcement to investigate.
9-11-19 Update: Visiting the Local Police Precinct
Not really helpful. A detective told us that this was a Civil Court matter. We would have to file in Civil Court and sue for the amount of money that was paid to George.
9-26-19 Update: Information from Emily
I was referred to Emily by the architect, LDickson, that George was going to use for my renovation. Emily is an expeditor who works with the architect. The official name for expeditor is “filing representative,” which means they lead projects through the process of dealing with the Department of Buildings (DOB). She told me she was suspicious of George when she spoke to him over the phone. When she asked him if he were the general contractor on record for this renovation, he told her: No, I am the project manager. That was news to me. She also told me how I could check the validity of a general contractor's license on the nyc.gov website. I typed in George's last name: Binakis as a General Contractor, but nothing showed up. However when I typed in the name of his company Bespoke Contracting & Design Inc, this is the result:
BESPOKE CONTRACTING & DES | BINAKIS GEORGE | 612646 N | EXPIRED | 05/15/2017
His website says that Bespoke Contracting & Design Inc is one of New York City's paramount contractors, specializing in high-end residential, commercial, and corporate construction. Was that statement ever really true? In fact, although he was representing to me that he was acting as the general contractor for this project and was even going to increase his liability insurance to the three million dollars required from the building management company, George didn't even have a valid general contracting license.
So Now What
So the take away here is that if you are defrauded in this way, you really have no recourse other than to publicize the fraud and hope others come forward so that you can present a legitimate case to law enforcement. This is how con men like George Binakis get away with crimes!