According to the Sun Sentinel, the owner of one of the state's largest hurricane shutter companies was arrested Thursday on allegations that his business has taken more than $9,000 in deposits from two customers but never completed the orders.
The accused faces criminal charges of running an organized scheme to defraud and contracting without a license stemming from an investigation by the Broward Sheriff's Office economic crimes unit.
The Attorney General's Office opened a civil investigation of the accused's company in March after receiving more than two dozen complaints from consumers around that state. Most said they had paid between $2,500 and $4,000 upfront, but never received their shutters.
The accused blamed the delays on defective materials from his suppliers and the bad economy.
State regulators earlier said the accused also may have violated Florida laws mandating that any contractor taking more than 10 percent of a job's estimated cost apply for permits within 30 days of taking deposit money, and start work within 90 days after the permit is issued.
Contracting without a license is a misdemeanor, unless committed in a state of emergency. Then it becomes a felony.
However, proving intent to defraud or intent to commit grand theft is very difficult for the State to do in these types of cases. Without proof of intent to defraud or steal, a charge of grand theft or organized scheme to defraud cannot be sustained.
This seems more like a civil case than a criminal case.
Eric Matheny is a criminal defense attorney serving Miami-Dade and Broward. Call to speak to Attorney Eric Matheny about your case.