LACEY — A contractor admitted to taking the down payment on a home renovation project and spending most of the money on himself, including gambling in Atlantic City.

Contractor Jeffrey Crawford, 50, of Hercules Renovations in Lacey Township, accepted a $115,000 down payment for a project to remodel the first floor of a Toms River home in September 2020. By March 2021, Crawford had "abandoned" the uncompleted project and caused "extensive damage" to the house, according to Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer.

The homeowner filed a complaint with the Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs, which contacted Toms River police.

$70,000 of the project down payment spent on personal items

An investigation determined Crawford spent $40,000 on gaming and $30,000 on other personal expenses for a total of approximately $70,000. Crawford was taken into custody in October 2021 on a summons pending a future appearance in Ocean County Superior Court.

Crawford pleaded guilty Monday to theft by failure to make required disposition of property and will be sentenced. Billhimer will recommend Crawford make $70,000 in restitution and serve three years in state prison.

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