OGDEN — St. Paul Lutheran Church and School was defrauded in a nationwide playground construction scam, according to a federal indictment.
The church, at 3329 Harrison Blvd., lost $6,550 paid toward a playground project, said a mail fraud indictment against Christopher Hardin of Strongsville, Ohio.
The Ogden church was one of 15 alleged victims around the country, including churches, schools, day care centers and a domestic violence shelter.
Prosecutors said in documents filed in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, Ohio, on Tuesday that Hardin defrauded the victims of $172,964 between 2011-2016.
None of the work was completed, the indictment said. Hardin misrepresented the use of project deposits, completion dates and issues causing delays, it said.
Hardin spent the money on personal expenses, including a car, restaurant and bar tabs and clothing, the indictment alleged.
Hardin did business as American Safety Surface and Recreation LLC, which sold playground installations, renovations and resurfacing.
St. Paul's business manager, Dina Scheifl, said Friday that Hardin was low bidder to build an infant and toddler playground for the church and school day care.
Hardin bid $13,000 and required 50 percent down, Scheifl said, "so we cut him a check."
After numerous delays, the church got a call from a day care operator in West Virginia who said they had given Hardin $15,000 to redo its playground, and ripped up the old one in preparation, but he never showed up.
Scheifl said the church filed a report with the Ogden Police Department.
"We just feel fortunate the only thing we lost was the $6,500," Scheifl said.
The church's project eventually was done by another company.
"He deserves to do time," she said of Hardin. "He's a scumbag."
Hardin also is accused of not paying $261,083 owed to a South Carolina playground equipment and materials vendor, and $270,127 to a project subcontractor.
Efforts to contact Michael J. Goldberg, listed in court records as Hardin's attorney, were not immediately successful.
Hardin is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday.