An unlicensed Kissimmee contractor was arrested on Feb. 27 after state officials said he stole more than $116,000 from Hurricane Irma victims.
Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis announced the recent arrest of Carmelo Perez Cruz, owner of LNC Renovation Inc. in Kissimmee, after he allegedly attempted to defraud multiple homeowners and commercial business out of $116,478.
He was charged with grand theft, unlicensed contractor, scheme to defraud and unlawful use of a two-way communication device.
Cruz was allegedly compensated for work he failed to perform and was not license to provide following Hurricane Irma.
“Working without a license to defraud Floridians is shameful. Schemes like this one not only take money out of the pockets of hardworking families, it also drives up insurance rates for everyone. If a contractor tells you to write a check to a business other than the one they claim to own, verify the company name. Always do your research before you hand over a down payment for repairs,” CFO Jimmy Patronis said.
CFO Jimmy Patronis’ Disaster Fraud Action Strike Team discovered Cruz, who is not a licensed contractor in the state allegedly assumed the identity of an established licensed general contractor to gain his victims trust. His alleged scheme involved billing owners large amounts and requiring half of the total to be paid before construction began. Once Cruz received payment, he vanished with the money without completing any work, state officials said.
Cruz was arrested on Feb. 27, and booked into the Osceola County Corrections Department. If convicted, Cruz could face up to 20 years in prison.
Detectives believe there may be additional victims within the Central Florida area and encourage anyone who believes they may have been victimized by Cruz to call the Insurance Fraud Tip Line at 1-800-378-0445.