ORLANDO, Fla. — Two men behind a company Action 9 first reported on three years ago, have been arrested, and accused of defrauding its customers.
Wendy Lemons didn’t have much to show for the $11,000 she paid to rebuild her porch.
“Sleepless nights, wondering what I could’ve done better,” Lemons said.
She’s not alone. Lemons is one of dozens of consumers who felt burned by Trusted Development Group in Oakland after paying large deposits for work that was not completed and many times, was not even started.
“They came in with a lot of promises,” Lemons told Action 9 three years ago.
Now, two of the men that were behind Trusted Development have been arrested. Christopher Craft and Samuel Hancock Jr. Have been charged with organized fraud after multiple agency investigations into nearly 200 complaints spanning 10 Florida counties.
According to the probable cause affidavit, Craft and Hancock intended to obtain property “by false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises or willful misrepresentations of future acts,” and it goes on to say that they obtained $759,000 from 35 unsuspecting people.
Cesar Bonilla was one of them. “Well, kind of a relief that something has been done,” he said.
Bonilla had given Trusted Development $91,000 for a home remodel that was never started.
“They were always giving me excuses.” Bonilla said permits weren’t even pulled.
In the probable cause affidavit filed by investigators, it states that an ex-employee told them Hancock was still selling jobs even when they couldn’t get permits because the contractor’s license had been suspended.
Action 9 found Craft has a history in two other states. The Ohio attorney general acted against him for unfair and deceptive home contracting, and he was barred from running a home construction business in that state. In Indiana, he was charged with home improvement fraud, adjudication was withheld, but he paid restitution.
Several homeowners we spoke to, including Bonilla, have been able to get part of their money back through the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s recovery fund, while others claim they haven’t seen a dime.
“I hope that that there will be a good punishment but most important is that no more people will be affected by this type of operation,” Bonilla said.
Trusted Development Group is no longer in business. Craft and Hancock have pleaded not guilty to the organized fraud charges.
Action 9′s Jeff Deal reached out to their attorneys. Hancock’s lawyer said he didn’t think it was appropriate to comment on the pending litigation, and so far, we have not heard back from Craft’s attorney.
©2023 Cox Media Group