I agree that it could be a criminal matter if there are other facts not known to us that make it so. I disagree with your unequivocal statements that "[t]he contractor was a scammer" and "took the money and ran." Accepting a deposit and not starting work in three weeks when the written contract does not identify a start date, without more, does not make for a criminal matter.
Correct, I should have used "if" instead of "the".
Ok. Finally got contractor to call and stop by house. He said he has cancer and just started chemo but still wanted job. Did 2 hours of work and had to leave. 2 days later contacted me and said he can not do the job while taking chemo. Don't know why he thought he could or took the job, but that is another story. Frankly, I guess I am a cynic because everything he has told us up to now, he has contradicted himself on. But, he now says he will return the money. If he does not, am I now looking at a criminal matter or a civil matter since he did do 2 hours of work.
100% civil matter unless like stated above that the contractor has done this to other homeowners. And I'll add if this was done to other homeowners, it must have been done over a broad timeline, not all within a few weeks or even a few months of each other of him getting sick.
I'm not a lawyer, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.......