This is an update on last week’s column about Joe Sekelsky, owner of Sekelsky Plumbing and Heating in Duryea, who last fall took $6,000 from Diane Plisga, of Duryea, for a furnace he never delivered. What she got instead was a string of excuses, including a manufacturer’s recall, two deaths in the family and a multiple toe amputation.
As it turns out, this is not Sekelsky’s first rodeo. Since that column ran, I’ve been bombarded with calls and emails from folks with similar stories, and I’ve looked at enough court records to convince me that Plisga’s experience is typical of how Sekelsky runs his business.
“He’s bad news,” said Benjamin Schultz, of Exeter. “It’s almost like he’s running a contractor’s Ponzi scheme.”
Schultz’s story is nearly identical to Plisga’s. Last September, Sekelsky cleaned his furnace and said he found a crack, just like he told Plisga. Instead of ordering a new furnace, however, Schultz paid Sekelsky to perform $1,000 in repairs. After Sekelsky was done, he told Schultz the furnace needed a steam pipe and collected an additional $300.
If you read Plisga’s story, you can guess what happened next: Sekelsky cashed the check but never delivered the steam pipe.
“I chased him throughout October, and the excuses he gave her are like the excuses I got,” said Schultz. “He had three toes amputated because he got an infection on a cruise. His whole house was sick. He had pneumonia.”
In mid-November, a fed-up Schultz filed a complaint against Sekelsky with the Magisterial District Court. Last month, he won a default judgment for $300 plus $112 in court costs.
“I haven’t received anything,” Schultz told me last week. “To be honest with you, I don’t think I’ll ever see that money.”
I don’t think so, either, because Sekelsky already has a string of judgments longer than a steam pipe.
Those judgments include two in November 2014 — one for $9,158 and another for $3,150 — as well as a $731 judgment going back to 2009, to name a few.
On Thursday, as I was writing this column, a new case popped up in court records after a Glen Lyon couple filed a claim against Sekelsky for $454. It’s on the court docket for March.
Plisga said Sekelsky called her after last week’s column and said he was recovering from the toe amputations. Despite his troubles, he promised to install the furnace on Feb. 25.
“He said he was home in bed, with all kinds of tubes in him and nurses going in and out,” Plisga told me. “He said he was going to the doctor that day to find out if he was going to lose his leg.”
Kind of like Plisga and his other trusting customers who have already lost an arm and a leg.