ORLANDO,Fla. — Action 9 investigates how a free energy audit can turn into a homeowner's worst nightmare.
A Winter Garden family just lost $30,000, and there are dozens of victims.
Richard Robison thought his power company called to offer a free energy audit. Instead the Renuen Corporation arrived and promised to cut his power bill in half.
"You figure it's going to be a good thing," said Robison.
The company installed solar hot water and solar air-conditioning, which cost nearly $30,000.
"Then everything went downhill from there," said Robison.
The solar AC flunked a county inspection twice.
Action 9 found the system made by Sedna never passed Florida solar licensing standards and cannot be legally installed. And the couple's electric bill actually went up.
"They gave me a royal shaft in the keister," Robison said.
Robison said he could not afford the 30
percent financing. The couple took out a reverse mortgage on their house and drained their retirement account to pay off the loan. Then Robison and his wife discovered Renuen went out of business.
"They were knowingly installing illegal equipment in the state of Florida," said attorney Cathy Lerman.
Lerman found at least 60 victims she said were tricked into paying Renuen for illegal solar AC. She filed complaints with the Orange and Broward county sheriff's offices, claiming the company used many unlicensed contractors, and some installations were dangerous.
"There are consumers sitting out there right now who do not know they have a fire hazard in their home," said Lerman.
Renuen CEO Jeff Nemes is a former New Jersey police officer convicted for bribery and theft. Off camera he blamed accusations on jealous competitors who he's suing for slander.
"Was it deception?" Action 9's Todd Ulrich asked Robison.
"Totally. One-hundred percent," he said.
A Renuen attorney said Robison signed an agreement that said the company did nothing wrong and got a $3,700 refund.
Robison said he did that when the company promised to fix everything, and that didn't happen.
Renuen official statement:
"The company has made every attempt to satisfy all of Mr. Robison's concerns regarding the manufacturer's warranty of the product. Mr. Robison has provided numerous verbal statements, a sworn affidavit and signed a settlement agreement under oath resulting in refunds of $3669.32.
"It is disingenuous for Mr. Robison to now claim that his statements are not true when he provided them under oath. Mr. Robison had no problem taking the money from the company, and had agreed to the terms and conditions of the Settlement Agreement with the company.
"As far as the company can tell, Mr. Robison is in breach of the terms and conditions of the Settlement Agreement. Regardless, the company stands ready to make any warranty corrections or repairs to his system."