STAUNTON — An Augusta County contractor turned himself in Thursday morning after being charged earlier this week on 19 counts.
In a hearing later that afternoon in Augusta County Circuit Court, a judge set bail for Wesley Pittman Jr., 58, who was indicted by a grand jury on Monday for 18 charges of obtaining money by false pretences and a charge of construction fraud. He is being held at Middle River Regional Jail.
Pittman owned Blue Ridge Log Homes and Pittman Construction, as well as Creative Innovations. He is accused of defrauding 18 clients out of nearly $3 million.
At the bail hearing, he appeared via CCTV from jail. Pittman testified he was unemployed in July after his business collapsed and said he put his Fishersville home up for sale soon after. “We knew if we didn’t sell it, it would be seized,” he said.
Pittman recently accepted a job offer in North Carolina, where he was hired as vice president of operations overseeing construction projects at Southern Leisure Builders, he said.
Augusta County Assistant Attorney Katie Jackson said Pittman, who bought Blue Ridge Log Homes several years ago, was paid nearly $3 million by the 18 clients for various construction projects, most being log houses. But Jackson said Pittman only did varying amounts of work and said on some projects “no work was done.”
Jackson also noted that Pittman allegedly emptied his bank accounts in August. Two accounts had starting balances over $80,000, but one had an ending balance of less than $100 and the other ended up with just over $4,000, according to Jackson. The prosecutor said investigators are still trying to determine what happened to the money.
“We can’t explain where that money went,” Jackson said.
She also noted that Pittman sold his Fishersville home in August for $1.085 million and said he only owed $400,000 on the property. “He made a significant profit from the sale of his house,” Jackson said.
Attorney Scott Alleman, who represents Pittman, said investigators won’t find “a pot of gold there” and suggested the case was more of a civil than a criminal matter. “It’s not a scenario where he took the money and ran away,” Alleman said.
Alleman said Pittman’s businesses, which employed 22 people, had “significant overhead” and were financially devastated during the pandemic when construction costs soared and supply chain issues set in. . “He tried as best he could to keep the business going, Judge,” the attorney said.
Anticipating civil lawsuits, Alleman said Pittman was focused on staying employed and saving money. He also argued that his client would be allowed to stay in North Carolina while on bail.
“If he wanted to race, judge, he could have done it a long time ago,” Alleman said.
Circuit Judge W. Chapman Goodwin set bail at $300,000 and said Pittman could work and live in North Carolina while on bail.
Pittman was investigated in July after the sheriff’s office began filing numerous complaints of possible fraud involving him and his businesses.
He also faces a construction fraud charge in Appomattox County.
Brad Zinn is The News Leader’s cops, courts and breaking news reporter. Do you have a topical tip? Or something that needs investigation? You can email reporter Brad Zinn (he/him) at [email protected] You can also follow him on Twitter.