Stiff penalty for Goodrich
JANESVILLE A Rock County judge Monday called Janesville businessman and minister Brad Goodrich a "con man" whose conduct was worse than that of a poisonous snake.
Judge Dan Dillon ruled that Goodrich owes Steven Barbeau $1.396 million in reimbursement and punitive damages. Goodrich also must pay for Barbeau's lawyer fees.
Dillon found Goodrich liable of theft by contractor and four other claims in a lawsuit brought by Barbeau.
Theft by contractor also is a crime. District Attorney David O'Leary could not be reached Monday to say if he is considering criminal charges against Goodrich.
Goodrich will be asked under oath about his finances and holdings so the court can assess what assets can be used to pay the judgment, said Margery Tibbetts-Wakefield, Barbeau's attorney.
Goodrich faces additional lawsuits filed by banks, contractors and other business associates.
Barbeau in December 2008 gave Goodrich $375,000 to hold in trust to be used to open a restaurant in the space formerly occupied by the Asian Buffet in the Village Plaza on Janesville's north side. Goodrich owns the strip mall.
Goodrich immediately diverted the money to another company he owns and then covered his tracks by transferring it a second time, Dillon said. Goodrich used the money to pay off two bank loans totaling $189,000 and bought two trucks and a plow attachment.
Goodrich put the remaining money in the stock market.
Barbeau asked for his money back eight days later. It had already been spent, Dillon said.
In 2009, Barbeau gave Goodrich another $65,000 and then $90,000 more. Barbeau personally spent another $116,000 to pay staff members who had been hired for the restaurant and for other expenses.
Dillon said he is convinced that Goodrich intended to "permanently deprive Mr. Barbeau of that money …. He (Goodrich) spent it almost as fast as he got it."
Dillon said he found Barbeau's testimony "essentially credible."
He called Goodrich a "first-class con artist" whose testimony was "unworthy of belief." Goodrich tried to cover up his wrongdoings with a "web of deceit," including falsified records, messy accounting, inflated charges on work at the restaurant and a lack of receipts, Dillon said.
The judge noted testimony from an employee who said Goodrich confided in him. Goodrich said he was losing sleep and was praying for forgiveness.
That was an admission of guilt that Goodrich never denied, Dillon said.
Dillon several times appeared incredulous that Barbeau continued to give Goodrich money.
"As far as Mr. Barbeau, a fool and his money are soon parted," he said.
Barbeau testified that he gave Goodrich more money because he was trying to recoup on his original investment.
"Look, if you're bitten by a poisonous snake, you should have known … that you were going to get bitten if you handled the snake again," Dillon said. "And yet you did.
"That doesn't make you dishonest. It makes you awfully gullible.
"Snakes do what they do by virtue of their nature," he added. "But individuals who take money in trust are expected to be trustworthy. And in that regard …and it turns out to be a huge error on his (Barbeau's) part—he trusted Mr. Goodrich."
The restaurant is for sale and is being sold as nearly ready to open. Goodrich owns the improved property while Barbeau has nothing, Dillon said.
Barbeau is not the only one who fell victim to Goodrich, others say.
Businessman Ray Ruiz is suing Goodrich, and a hearing is set for March. He claims Goodrich owes him money from the sale of the Village Plaza.
Attorney Duffy Dillon—Judge Dillon's son—represents more people who claim that Goodrich pilfered more than $1 million of their retirement money.
Goodrich also owns the Lovejoy manor, which is in foreclosure, and other rental property, including the building that houses the Social Security Administration in Janesville.