GRANDVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grandville roofer accused of taking money and failing to finish jobs was previously convicted of using a customer’s credit card to pay his own electric bill and rent.
Target 8 began investigating Blake Hoogterp and his company, Great Lakes Roofing & Exteriors, after receiving complaints from homeowners who said the Hudsonville native left projects unfinished and stopped returning calls.
Court records show Hoogterp pleaded guilty to misdemeanor larceny in January 2022, though he was initially charged with felony theft of a financial transaction device in the November 2021 crime.
“(The victim) filed a police report alleging that her (credit card) information was used to make payments to Grand Castle Apartments and Consumers Energy without her knowledge or consent,” wrote a Grandville police officer in a probable cause affidavit filed in 59th District court. “(The victim) had provided her card information for the purposes of paying for work done at her residence… The defendant was the… employee that (the victim) provided her card information… Mr. Hoogterp admitted the payments were made without (the victim’s) knowledge or consent.”
The company for which Hoogterp worked at the time told Target 8 it promptly fired him.
On Wednesday, the Hudsonville native was again arrested and charged with credit card theft, this time involving another roofing company that had previously employed him.
Holland police told Target 8 that Hoogterp used his former employer’s credit card without authorization on Aug. 14, 2023, to purchase items at Menards in Holland.
The roofer was booked into the Ottawa County Jail, arraigned via video and released pending trial.
ROOFER DENIES CRIMES
But Hoogterp didn’t seem to know what Target 8 investigators were talking about when we tracked him down Thursday evening as he left his Grand Castle apartment.
“What are you speaking of?” Hoogterp questioned when we asked about his Wednesday arrest.
“That’s untrue,” he said of the criminal case involving his previous employer’s credit card.
He seemed confused, too, about his 2022 larceny conviction.
“You talking about when I was far younger than this?” he said.
Hoogterp also denied allegations he failed to complete jobs or ghosted customers.
“That’s absolutely not true,” Hoogterp said from the front seat of his truck, his new wife by his side. “We just got back from our wedding and honeymoon. We’re just getting back into things. We stopped to take care of the tornado damage over in Comstock Park. As a state of an emergency… We stopped, and we prioritized. We’ll get to their other cosmetic changes when we can.”
LICENSED TO DRIVE, NOT BUILD
Hoogterp, 26, introduced himself and his new company in a March 16, 2023, post on the Nextdoor social network.
“Hello Everybody! My name is Blake, and I am born and raised in Hudsonville, graduated from unity Christian highschool (sic) & Grand Valley State University,” Hoogterp wrote in the post. “My fiancé and I just launched our roofing & exteriors company.”
He went on to note that he’d worked for various companies in the roofing/remodeling business for more than eight years.
“But finally decided to take the leap and go into business for yourself,” he wrote. “We’re fully incensed (sic), insured, and A rating with the better business bureau.”
But neither the BBB nor Michigan’s Licensing Agency has a record of Hoogterp or his company.
On the Great Lakes’ Nextdoor page, Hoogterp lists his “state license” as H23679247654, which looks suspiciously like a partial number from a driver’s license.
CUSTOMERS: EXCUSES, EXCUSES
“I put $25,000 into this,” said Joseph Zarantonello, a first-time homeowner in Kentwood who said he hired Hoogterp in June. “He’s done maybe half that work. But I also contracted with him with the understanding he was licensed by the state.”
It was Zarantonello’s call to Target 8 that prompted our investigation. He said he hired Hoogterp to do six projects, including the installation of new roofing, siding, and window casings.
“None of these projects have been completed and three haven’t even been started,” according to Zarantonello, who said Hoogterp hasn’t worked on his house since mid-July.
“The excuses,” Zarantonello said. “Anything you can come up with.”
In a 2021 small claims lawsuit filed against Hoogterp in 63rd District Court, another homeowner listed the excuses Hoogterp gave for failing to complete a $3,425 roofing project.
Nathan Zomerlei noted in the court file that Hoogterp rescheduled the project four times over four weeks, with excuses that ranged from “the suppliers delivered to the wrong house” to “the truck’s tires blew from the weight of the supplies.”
Zomerlie said Hoogterp ultimately agreed to refund his money, but when the check finally arrived, it bounced.
Zomerlie won the lawsuit and told Target 8 he recouped some of his money through the garnishment of Hoogterp’s wages.
When Zarantonello checked out Hoogterp’s reviews before hiring him, he said he saw nothing but good recommendations.
‘MY BUDGET IS BEYOND SHOT’
But recently, multiple homeowners have posted complaints about Hoogterp on Nextdoor, including Jessie McCormick, who told Target 8 she hired Hoogterp in March 2023 to repair roof damage her home sustained in a July 2022 storm.
“For a while everything was good,” McCormick said. “He came out and he worked on the roof for a few days. Told me his gutter contractors had canceled, had fallen through, but … I paid him as planned, assuming he had all that lined up.”
McCormick said between insurance and her own cash payments, Hoogterp received around $9,000.
“He was planning to get the gutters here, but that never happened,” McCormick said. “So, the biggest trick is when the rain falls, it falls on these steps and I can’t get in and out of the house without it icing over. So I am currently looking for someone to do the gutters before winter hits hard.”
McCormick said Hoogterp also failed to cut vent strips in her roof, replace a crucial support beam or install flashing he’d promised for the home’s foundation.
“He seems to have a pattern of showing up and starting off really well, forming great relationships, he’s very relational, and then ghosting,” said McCormick, who’s trying to figure out how to raise more funds to complete the needed work.
“I had friends and family friends, and church friends donate to a yard sale we hosted in May to make up the difference between what insurance could pay and what I could afford,” she said. “You can’t repeat that.”
McCormick wishes she had done more research prior to hiring.
“She is my first home,” McCormick said, referring to the house she named Matilda after the street where it stands. “I was homeless through high school and college, and she’s my everything. She’s my safe place.”
Joseph Zarantonello said it’s hard to articulate how deeply the experience has impacted him.
“The amount of stress and time and worry, and now my budget is beyond shot,” he lamented. “This is my first home, this is a huge investment for me. This is where I put all my money.”
Zarantonello and McCormick hope other homeowners will learn from their mistakes.
“Don’t just take the person’s word for it,” Zarantonello said. “Take the person’s license number, make sure you check with the state, the BBB. I mean the guy, Blake, was super personable, very nice, very responsive initially… But when things started to go awry, and I started to do my own research, that’s where I started to find cracks in the truth.’
Before hiring a contractor, the Better Business Bureau of Western Michigan advises homeowners to check the individual or firm by searching Google and bbb.org, ask friends, family and prior customers, verify any licenses through the state, get multiple bids for the same scope of work, put everything in writing and never pay in full until the job is done.