Scam Artist No More
Human Services Spotlight Series #16
Air Conditioning “Contractor” Pleads Guilty
Between 2016 and 2018, a Pinellas County man used Craig’s List, roadside ads and self-promotion to advertise himself as a licensed air conditioning contractor. Four Pinellas County residents saw the advertising and contacted him for various A/C repair and installation jobs. Each time, he met with the victims at their homes, reviewed their request and provided an estimate and contract for work to be completed the next day. Each victim provided a 50% down payment ranging from $500 to $2,150.
In one incident, the defendant arrived at the residence and began the work. A neighbor, who looked out for the elderly, blind homeowner, interrupted and ordered the man to leave.
The defendant failed to show at any of the other three residences. Each time, the victims repeatedly asked him to conduct the work or provide a refund. The defendant provided one victim a refund of $500 via a personal check, but quickly placed a “stop payment” on it. The defendant provided another victim a refund of $1,000 via personal check drawn on a closed bank account. The defendant sent the third victim a text message advising he would only return the money if the complaint was dropped.
The homeowners complained to Pinellas County Consumer Protection which conducted a multi-victim investigation that revealed the defendant was not licensed and did not work for the companies he advertised. The defendant pleaded guilty to these charges: Tampering with a Witness; Scheme to Defraud; Grand Theft from a Person 65 or Older; Exploitation of an Elderly or Disabled Adult; Failure to Secure Workers Comp; Unlicensed AC Contracting – State; Falsely Holding Oneself Out as a Contractor License; Commence Construction Without a Permit; and Grand Theft.
Because of prior similar offenses, the defendant was ordered to pay $1,100 in restitution and was sentenced to 27.45 months in prison followed by 18 months’ probation.
Protect – Regulate – Investigate – Educate
Sometimes it is hard to spot fraud when it is happening. Scams can be large or small, sophisticated or simple, but the people behind them have two things in common: They want to steal your money and avoid being caught. The reality is anyone could fall victim to a scam, no matter your age, intellect or economic status. Most consumer transactions are completed satisfactorily. On occasion, however, any consumer could experience unresolved problems such as defective products, erroneous bills or nondelivery of goods or services.
When you are confronted with such a situation, the dedicated employees of Pinellas County Consumer Protection are here to help you. Investigators are available to speak with you regarding a consumer transaction at (727) 464-6200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.