Worst Tampa Contractors of 2010
Patriot Roofing | Clearwater, Fla.
The Pinellas County state attorney's office in October filed six counts of felony grand theft against Patriot Roofing owner Marco Alamina following more than 30 complaints from homeowners. Alamina also faces three felony counts of misapplication of real property improvement funds filed in January 2010.
The county's Consumer Protection Office has received complaints about Patriot's business practices since 2007, says chief investigator Larry Krick.
"We had complaints that said he took money and didn't do work, took money and only did partial work, or where he did the work but there were unpaid subcontractors and liens placed on the homes," Krick says, adding that those complaints led to the criminal charges.
The state suspended Patriot's roofing license in November 2008, and later revoked it in March 2009 for financial misconduct and working without permits, according to state records.
Wendy Whitt of St. Petersburg says Patriot Roofing fixed her roof but didn't pay a supplier — leaving her on the hook for the debt. After Whitt paid the supplier — for materials she had already paid Alamina for — she won a $4,920 judgment against Patriot Roofing. However, she says she still hasn't received any money, despite repeated attempts to collect in court.
One of Alamina's former employees, David Glanzrock, also filed a lawsuit against him and the company, alleging he had not been paid for his work. A judge found in Glanzrock's favor in January 2009 and entered a default judgment of $3,198 against Patriot, according to court records.
Alamina, who was released from jail on bond, pleaded not guilty to the misapplication of funds charges, but he has not entered a plea for the grand theft charges. No trial date has been set. The criminal charges are all third-degree felonies, punishable by up to five years in jail and a $5,000 fine. A notice alerts members to the felony charges.
The company's phone number is disconnected. Alamina's attorney, Scott Alexander, did not return calls requesting comment.
Signature Built by David Helms | St. Pete Beach, Fla.
David Helms, president of Signature Built, pleaded no contest in September to 10 misdemeanor charges of working without a license. He faces up to 10 years in prison and more than $1 million in restitution, court records indicate. His sentencing is on hold until he can retain a new attorney.
In November, his prior attorney, Warren Knaust, was removed from the case after being found guilty in federal court of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Helms' next status hearing is this month.
Gary White, assistant state attorney for Pinellas County, says the criminal charges are the result of Helms leaving two major jobs unfinished and operating without a license. "He portrayed himself as a big-time high roller with every conceivable credential, but he was just a con man," White says.
Richard and Constance Wendlek of Lutz paid Helms $1.22 million to build their home but he abandoned the job as soon as he received the check, Constance Wendlek says. "He had no intention of completing it," she says. "The house was just a shell and drywall. No floors, no plumbing, no landscaping, no lights. He made no effort to make reparations." The home remains incomplete, she says.
Helms' guilty plea in 1994 to a federal felony charge of bank fraud precluded him from receiving a contractor's license in Florida, so he illegally used a certified building contractor license held by Louise Wold-Parente, White says. Wold-Parente faces two misdemeanor charges of knowingly allowing an unlicensed contractor to use her license. She pleaded not guilty in August, according to court records, and the case remains pending.
Constance Wendlek says she had no idea Helms wasn't licensed. "He presented himself as a licensed contractor," she says. "Even our bank thought he was licensed. You have to be a super sleuth to track it all down. He did this not only to us, but to many other people."
Helms, who was released from jail on his own recognizance, also faces three civil cases filed by former clients, including the Wendleks, who won a $1.27 million judgment in August. In November, Helms filed for bankruptcy, listing $3.6 million in liabilities. A notice on his company's profile alerts members to his previous felony conviction.
White says that while civil judgments can be discharged in bankruptcy, Helms will still be responsible for criminal restitution ordered by the court. The company's phone number is disconnected.
Daniel Knapp | New Port Richey, Fla.
In August, Pasco County sheriff's deputies arrested insurance agent Daniel Knapp on felony fraud charges. He's accused of performing illegal wind mitigation inspections for 32 homeowners by using the names and license numbers of local contractors without their permission.
One of the homeowners, Vince Blancato of Port Richey, says Knapp did good work for him for several years as an insurance agent, so he didn't question it when Knapp said he could get a discount on Blancato's homeowner's policy if he paid $125 for an inspection.
"We had no reason to believe he wasn't honest," Blancato says. He adds that Knapp's former employer, Carney Insurance, later provided a licensed inspection at its own expense.
Knapp faces up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine if convicted. He pleaded not guilty in September. No trial date has been set. Phone calls to his attorney, Paul Gionis, were not returned.
24/7 Home Repair | Tampa, Fla.
Paul Gordon, owner of 24/7 Home Repair, returns as a Tampa Worst Contractor for the second year in a row after a judge found him guilty of felony fraud and two counts of felony grand theft. He also made Angie's List Magazine's National Worst Contractor list in 2007 and 2008.
Members alleged he performed shoddy work, damaged their homes, ran off without returning deposits and performed work without a license.
Suzette Holder of Tampa won a $42,856 civil judgment against Gordon after she says he damaged her house. Her attorney, Matthew Thatcher, says he doubts she'll ever get any money from Gordon.
Gordon received a 15-year prison sentence. He is incarcerated at the Walton Correctional Institution in DeFuniak Springs.
— by Paul F.P. Pogue