Residents still face problems with contractors two years after Hurricane Michael

We talk with a family living in a trailer after a contractor took their money without repairing...
We talk with a family living in a trailer after a contractor took their money without repairing their storm damaged home. We are looking at how much money has been stolen from home owners and insurance companies through contractors not doing the job they were hired to do.
Published: Oct. 7, 2020 at 8:12 PM CDT
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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Two years ago Hurricane Michael ravaged our area, and for some, they’re still feeling the effects.

Residents are still facing problems with fraudulent contractors.

“Whenever we first moved into the camper it was only supposed to be four months. Here we are almost two years later, same boat,” Bay County resident Kelsie Raffield said.

Raffield’s home has been unlivable for the past two years, but it’s not because of what you see, it’s because of what you don’t.

She said her supposed contractor stole nearly $130,000 of their insurance money.

“The license number was real. He just wasn’t who he said he was,” Raffield said.

Now they’re trying to fix whatever they can on their own.

She looks back at all the signs telling them something wasn’t right.

“Logan did have to tell him like four different times, ‘hey this isn’t right what’s going on?’ You know, those red flags that you notice after you find out things about people,” Raffield said.

However, their case is just one of hundreds filed since Hurricane Michael.

“We’ve had 952 cases assigned to us since November of 2018 in the financial crimes section,” Corporal Dennis Rozier said. “Probably around 70% of those is actually contractor-related or complaints. A number of those are unfounded or they turn into civil; we have had a substantial number of them.”

Bay County Sheriff’s officials in the financial crimes unit say they are still working dozens.

“We’ve had 162 arrests between the two of us and 51 outstanding warrants. Most of those were contractor-related,” Corporal Rozier said.

Corporal Rozier said, according to the state attorney’s office, there are more than 170 pending contractor-related cases in all of Bay County. This includes licensed and unlicensed contractors

The difference can cost you.

“We’re into the millions of dollars for all of our victims here in Bay County,” Corporal Rozier said. “We’ve recouped some of that money back and some of the settlements already. Nowhere near what they’ve lost.”

Officials may be looking at years more of work.

“I would say as long as there is still contracts going on, there is still going to be some fraud involved in it. So, we may be looking at years more of working these kinds of cases,” Corporal Rozier said. “We never did this before the hurricane. We never had to deal with anything like this.”

Years more of work may mean years more of waiting.

“I mean it affects a lot of our community in different ways. Some people are living out of campers still, some people have just left [and] abandoned their homes and moved to another state and just started over somewhere else,” Corporal Rozier said.

Bay County Sheriff’s officials said if you were scammed by a licensed contractor, you can apply to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation Florida Homeowners' Construction Recovery Fund.

Sheriff’s officials also have a list of tips when it comes to hiring a contractor.

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