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Oakhurst contractor arrested, accused of scamming elderly customers

The new owner of a decades-old Oakhurst business landed in jail this week, accused of bilking elderly customers in connection with contracted work he performed on their water pumps, the Madera County Sheriff’s Office confirmed.

Marc DeMasters, the 38-year-old owner of North Fork Pump & Well Service, faces criminal charges of embezzlement from an elder, according to Kayla Serrato, the sheriff’s office spokesperson.

He was arrested Monday and booked into the Madera County Jail on suspicion of two counts of embezzlement from an elder, one count of grand theft and three counts of contracting without a license, according to jail records.

DeMasters previously was arrested Nov. 29 in connection with the same investigation but was released from custody 48 hours later after prosecutors failed to file formal charges in the case.

Serrato on Monday confirmed the formal charges have since been filed by the Madera County District Attorney’s Office. Officials with the prosecutor’s office did not respond after repeated requests for comment.

DeMasters, in an interview in August when the investigation into his business was opened, denied any wrongdoing.

“I’ve been doing this for about 20 years now, worked on hundreds of houses, my family is well-known in the area. This is the first time I’ve had any complaints,” DeMasters said.

At least five of DeMasters’ customers have confirmed speaking with sheriff’s investigators. Two told the Sierra Star they were unhappy with his work and said they felt misled by DeMasters.

Sue Crowe, 83, was a customer of the company for years before DeMasters took over. She said she didn’t expect any issues when she hired the company to replace her water pump on July.

“They’ve been great over the years. They were the only ones that really worked on our pumps,” Sue Crowe said.

She said she believes DeMaster was “just scamming” her.

The Crowe family said DeMasters was hired to replace an old water pump with a new one. Instead, the family claims, he installed a used pump and used parts but charged them the price for a new pump and parts, running up their bill by several hundred dollars. Six days later, when the job was supposed to be finished, Sue Crowe said she remained without water.

In total, the family was charged about $3,190, according to billing documents provided by the Crowe family.

North Fork Pump & Well Service has been in business for more than 40 years but has been under new ownership for the last two. John Martin, the previous owner and founder of the business, said DeMasters bought the company from him in 2016.

Specht Crowe said she reported DeMasters to the Madera County Sheriff’s Department in August.

Terry Ogden, 68, said he hired North Fork Pump & Well Service in Sept. 2017 to have the pump in his vacation home replaced. He described many of the same concerns outlined by the Crowe family.

“I lucked out because they had not set this pump at the proper depth for it to work properly, or else I never would have found out,” Ogden said.

DeMasters said Ogden’s complaints were in relation to how long the job took and said the claims of using a used pump for the job were new to him.

DeMasters also denied all of the Crowe family’s claims. He said the pump he installed was new and that his style of service had not upset any of his previous customers.

DeMasters did make financial amends with Ogden’s payments after he brought forward his allegations and concerns. The Crowe family was also eventually refunded.

North Fork Pump & Well Service has since stopped all operations. DeMasters believes the Crowe family has taken this much too far.

He remained in custody Monday with bail set at $100,000, according to jail records.

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