PITTSFIELD, Mass. (AP) — A contractor who according to authorities bilked dozens of customers in five states — including a church and two volunteer fire departments — out of a total of more than $400,000, has been indicted on 48 charges, prosecutors said.

Fred Senter, 40, of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, who owned Northern Steel Building and Structure LLC, took down payments for more than 40 projects to build steel structures, yet never completed the work and eventually stopped communicating with his clients, according to a statement Thursday from the Berkshire district attorney's office.

Senter cheated customers from February 2020 through September in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania and even continued to collect deposits for months after he dissolved the business, prosecutors said.

He was held on $25,000 bail at his arraignment Thursday in Berkshire Superior Court.

“My client maintains his innocence,” Senter's attorney, Joanna Arkema, said in a statement Friday. “Since it is very early in the case, we are going to refrain from commenting further at this time.”

Most of his customers were private citizens, but he also defrauded the volunteer fire department in Richmond, Massachusetts, authorities said.

“These indictments demonstrate my office and law enforcement’s commitment to holding those who take advantage of others accountable,” District Attorney Andrea Harrington said in a statement.

He signed a contract with the department in February 2020 and accepted nearly $53,000 for a new steel building, provided the blueprints and trusses for the project, but never completed the work and never refunded the deposit, prosecutors said.

The charges include multiple larceny counts as well as being a common and notorious thief.

Some of Senter's clients told investigators that he blamed delays on material and labor shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, before cutting off communications entirely.

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