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Felony theft charges are again pending against an Orem construction firm after the case was temporarily dismissed Thursday when a deputy county attorney failed to appear in court.

Fourth Circuit Judge Robert J. Sumsion reinstated 18 felony charges against T&H Westamerica Homes, owned by Thomas R. Jenkins and Harold C. Toombs, Thursday afternoon after meeting with Deputy County Attorney Craig Madsen and County Attorney Kay Bryson.Earlier in the day, Madsen failed to show up for a scheduled preliminary hearing in Orem's 4th Circuit Court and Ron Yengich and Fred Metos, attorneys for Westamerica, asked Sumsion to dismiss the charges against their client.

Westamerica allegedly received construction funds for 18 homes in the Heatheridge (Orem) and Summer Ridge (Lindon) subdivisions, but did not pay suppliers and subcontractors who worked on those homes.

The unpaid suppliers and subcontractors subsequently filed $180,000 in liens on the homes - much to the dismay of the unsuspecting homeowners.

The criminal case against Westamerica is the first filed under the construction trades licensing act's theft provision, adopted by the Utah Legislature in 1989.

Thursday morning, it appeared the test case was down the tubes. As requested by Westamerica's attorneys, Sumsion dismissed all 18 charges.

According to Bryson, Madsen believed the hearing was for scheduling purposes only - a meeting in which attorneys and the judge choose a day for what is anticipated to be a lengthy preliminary hearing.

Madsen, who plans to call about 50 witnesses, thinks the preliminary hearing will take at least a day.

Madsen asked another deputy county attorney to represent him at the meeting. However, Westamerica's attorneys came to court prepared for a preliminary hearing and when Madsen didn't show up, they asked that the charges be dismissed.

"We believe we are at odds with the defense attorneys as to what was supposed to have occurred this morning," Bryson said.

After meeting with Bryson and Madsen, Sumsion agreed there had been a misunderstanding and reversed his earlier order.

Thursday afternoon the county attorney's office was preparing to re-serve the 18 complaints against Toombs and Jenkins.

"The case is not by any means dead," Bryson said. "It will proceed and it will be heard. What has happened is not going to delay this case at all, not even one day."