SALEM — The former owner of a controversial Salem sober house is heading back to jail for 21/2 years, after a Salem District Court judge found “frankly, overwhelming” evidence that he’d again violated his probation in an identity fraud case — with more identity fraud.
This time, prosecutors allege, Michael Viola, 50, of Saugus, used a licensed contractor’s information and a copy of his insurance certificate to submit an application for a building permit for renovations at the 17-21 Salem St. building that is now, at least on paper, owned by his 25-year-old daughter.
The contractor, who had met with a former tenant, a store owner, at the building two years earlier, testified that he’d never been hired by anyone there to do the work, though he’d submitted a proposal at the time.
When a copy of the building permit showed up at his business last spring, he went to authorities.
And then a lot of strange things started happening, he testified. For one thing, he discovered that he was now the subject of a restraining order on behalf of a woman he’d never met.
The case, which remains under investigation, may extend beyond simply filing the fraudulent application. A Salem police detective testified during yesterday’s hearing that he’s been told that Viola had orchestrated a plan for a homeless woman to obtain the restraining order against the contractor. This happened after Viola learned he was being charged with fraud.
Detective Dennis Gaudet testified that Viola drove the woman to Lynn District Court and told her what to say in the restraining order affidavit. After the order was issued, he paid her $100 and dropped her off at a nail salon, Gaudet testified.
Two city employees testified that Viola showed up at the building department after the charges were filed and suggested how they should testify.