Under both federal and state law contractors who are accused of fraud can face civil charges. Contractor fraud is a broad term used to describe the illegal business practices committed by contractors who are hired to renovate, repair, or build residential properties and can involve a number of different acts ranging from the performance of substandard repairs and the use of improper materials to unfair pricing and failing to obtain the appropriate permits. Contractor fraud is a serious offense in Florida, so if you have been charged with fraud, it is critical to speak with an experienced white collar crime attorney who can help you formulate a defense.
Florida law prohibits contractors from causing financial harm to customers through mismanagement or misconduct. Under the terms of the law, financial mismanagement occurs when:
- Valid liens have been recorded against a customer’s property for supplies or services ordered by the contractor to complete a job;
- The contractor has received funds from a customer to pay for the supplies or services; and
- The contractor has not had the liens removed from the property.
If a contractor abandons a customer’s job and at the time had completed less than what the customer had paid for he or she can also be charged with fraud, unless:
- The contractor is entitled to retain the funds under the terms of the contract; or
- The contractor refunds the excess funds within a month after the date of abandonment.
The third category of financial mismanagement occurs when a contractor’s job has been completed and there is evidence that the customer paid more for the job than the original contract price, unless the increase in cost was:
- The result of circumstances that were beyond the control of the contractor;
- The result of circumstances caused by the customer; or
- Permitted by the terms of the contract.
Most charges of contractor fraud falling under these categories include specific allegations, including:
- Favoritism towards a contractor despite the existence of competitive bids offering similar or superior services, pricing, or quality;
- Billing for incomplete work;
- Adding to a customer’s invoice, including additional labor or the cost of materials not covered by the terms of the contract; and
- Receiving kickbacks, such as payments for facilitating a government contract.
Being convicted of contractor fraud can have serious and far-reaching consequences, including the payment of hefty fines, jail time, and mandatory restitution. Additionally, the licensing board has the authority to suspend or revoke a contractor’s license and issue fines of up to $10,000 per violation.
Contact an Experienced South Florida White Collar Crime Lawyer
Being accused of fraud can have devastating consequences for a person’s career and reputation, so if you are a contractor, live in south Florida, and are being investigated for fraud, please contact Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. Criminal Defense Attorneys by calling 305-670-9919 and a member of our legal team will assist you in setting up a free consultation with a dedicated white collar crime attorney who can help explain your legal options.