SPECIAL REPORT: Fixing Fraud

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ILLEGAL CONTRACTOR

Immediately following Hurricane Michael, Parker homeowner, Michelle Perdew, and her husband set out searching for someone to fix the damage done to their home. 

After calling contractor after contractor, Perdew made contact with and hired Elton Tavernaro with VIP Remodeling LLC. 

“He wrote up a contract and I went with him,” said Perdew. Tavernaro wrote up multiple proposals referencing the work that needed to be done and the estimated costs. In all, the work he was hired to do would cost about $36,000. 

Perdew said Tavernaro started working on the house in early November, but almost a month later, she says she noticed some “shoddy” work. 

“Right away I kept pointing the bad work out and he just kept saying  I’m not finished yet. It’s just the way he was scabbing things together,” she said.

Perdew took photos of the work and in one photo, you can see a broken truss being held together by two new pieces of wood… she said she had never seen anything like it before. “I said, this isn’t going to hold. He said well I’m not finished with that piece yet,” said Perdew.

“This doesn’t look right to me but then again, I said I’m not an inspector and I don’t know anything about it… so could you come out and take a look at it,” she said. Seeing all the work, Perdew hired an inspector. 

Perdew said the inspector was in disbelief upon seeing the work Tavernaro had done so far. “He wrote down a whole list of things that were wrong,” she said. 

Now, she says she wants her money back. “I’m into him for $36,000,” said Perdew. However, Tavernaro said the work that she paid for was correct and done and therefore, he deserved his payment.  

“The work was completed. It was what they paid for,” said Tavernaro. The Perdew family did not agree and immediately released Tavernaro from the job…  a move that Tavernaro said left him confused because he believed he had done nothing wrong.

“So they had a structural engineer come in and decided they wanted to go a different route and basically replace everything, all the trusses. So they stopped me at that point and they basically told Kevin, which was the contractor on the job at that point… they wanted him to basically do the repairs and finish the work,” said Tavernaro. 

Soon after his release from the job, Tavernaro was interviewed and arrested by Parker Police for unlicensed contracting in a state of emergency, which is a felony charge, as well as a charge of grand theft. 

“Unlicensed contractors are playing off their despair to get the money and they’re getting away with it,” said Lt. Aaron Wilson with the Parker Police Department.

In an attempt to fix her home, Perdew had another contractor finish the work. “I went and talked to the guy directly who pulled the permit for him and I told him that he needed to fix my house,” she said. 

Tavernaro told Parker Police that he was working as a subcontractor under the company ‘Home Improvements by Kevin’… the same company finishing the work on Perdew’s home after Tavernaro was fired.

“They didn’t allow me to speak on it. They said that there was no permits on the job and no verification that ‘Home Improvements by Kevin’ was even on the job,” said Tavernaro. 

Tavernaro pulled copies of the permits, but Parker Police investigated further and spoke with the owner of ‘Home Improvements by Kevin’. The owner of the company denied that Tavernaro ever worked under them. 

In the immediate period following the storm, homeowners weren’t doing proper research into contractors because they were desperate to fix their homes and honestly didn’t know unlicensed contracting was as big of an issue as it has become. 

“I know it’s hard but they need to try and rely on local companies but if they have to rely on an out of state company, just make sure they contact the regulators to see if they have the right licensing and if nothing else, call law enforcement and have them check,” said Lt. Wilson. 

Searching to see if a company is legitimate is a simple process. “You can take their number and take their name and go to the Florida Department of responsibilities website, look them up, and verify that the name and the number match the person that you’re dealing with,” said Attorney at Law, Larry Perry. 

However, as far as getting all $36,000 the Perdew family spent back… it’s going to be a difficult process. 

“One of the things that the public needs to realize is not to give them money up front,” said Lt. Wilson. 

“First of all, they can use the civil court system and the second is the criminal court system. The judge may order restitution and that may be the quickest way that somebody is going to receive some justice out of some contractor who’s not a licensed contractor performing shoddy work,” said Perry. 

Tavernaro says he did nothing wrong and that the whole thing is a misunderstanding. He turned his documents, findings, and other potential evidence into the State Attorney’s office for consideration in this case. 

The State Attorney’s Office released this statement regarding the case:

“We cannot comment about the specifics of any pending case, however, the State Attorney’s Office is always willing to consider any relevant evidence when deciding whether to prosecute a defendant,” said Larry Basford. 

Attorney’s are currently looking into this case as Tavernaro hopes for justice. “I’m just trying to work and make money to support my family,” he said. 

Michelle Perdew is also waiting for justice to be served and hopes her story saves other families from falling a victim to unlicensed contracting. 

“I don’t think he should be able to come in here and take advantage of people, especially running all over town and telling people he’s a licensed contractor,” said Perdew. 

The Perdew home is currently being worked on and they hope to have everything complete by sometime in April. 

If you’re questioning the legitimacy of a contractor and want to verify a license, click here.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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