Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Builder's victims come up short in cash-recovery efforts

Luigi, 71, and Maria Zaccaria, 63, were among the 76 victims of home builder Steven Bartlett. Those 76 victims claimed to have lost $3.4-million, but efforts to recoup money have been unsuccessful.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Luigi, 71, and Maria Zaccaria, 63, were among the 76 victims of home builder Steven Bartlett. Those 76 victims claimed to have lost $3.4-million, but efforts to recoup money have been unsuccessful.

Earlier this year, the Coral Bay saga concluded with the conviction of home builder Steven Bartlett.

A judge in April sentenced the 41-year-old to 20 years in prison for defrauding 100-plus customers in 2005 and 2006. (He is serving his time at the Taylor Correctional Institution Annex in Perry.)

The verdict ended the legal fight but not the victims' quest for restitution. Altogether, they lost an estimated $5-million, with their homes left in various stages of completion.

In the weeks after the trial, the customers battled with the state to get money from the Florida Homeowners' Construction Recovery Fund.

The fund was created in 1993 after Hurricane Andrew as a way to compensate homeowners who suffered financial losses because of a contractor's mismanagement or misconduct. It is financed primarily by a surcharge on building permits — in essence, by homeowners.

A total of 76 victims of Bartlett's sought help in recouping $3.4-million — one of the largest claims ever against the fund.

In an extensive Times report published in April, the homeowners decried the state system, calling it "an absolute joke." And just as they expected, the state's system failed to help the bulk of the victims.

On May 15, the state account met its $500,000-per-builder ceiling, said Alexis Antonacci, a spokeswoman for the state agency that controls the money.

In the end, only 15 customers received restitution. Five were awarded $50,000, the maximum per claim. The others received payments ranging from $6,900 to $49,000.

The fund reimburses only for "actual damages." The extensive paperwork needed to file a claim is accepted on a first-come basis once homeowners get an order of restitution from the state licensing board or a judgment from a court. Payout decisions are made by the contractor licensing board.

Luigi Zaccaria and his wife, Maria, never made it to the end of the process. They lost more than $26,000 to Bartlett, who only cleared the land for their future home in Royal Highlands. Zaccaria filed his application in 2006 but didn't receive any money.

He said he feels betrayed by the state, especially after representatives from the state fund held meetings and made promises. "They are liars," Zaccaria said recently.

Walter Harfmann is another victim who had troubles with the system. He contracted with Coral Bay to build four houses for different family members. It took him six weeks of back-and-forth until his claim was accepted.

He lost about $31,000 — and received nothing from the state.

John Frank can be reached at jfrank@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6114.

Builder's victims come up short in cash-recovery efforts 12/25/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 30, 2008 10:53am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. St. Pete qualifying ends. Seven for mayor. Eight for District 6 on primary ballot

    Blogs

    The smiles of the faces of the workers in the City Clerk’s office said it all. The qualifying period for city elections was almost over.

    City Clerk Chan Srinivasa (2nd left) and Senior Deputy City Clerk  Cathy Davis (1st left) celebrate the end of qualifying period with colleagues on Friday afternoon
  2. 'Garbage juice' seen as threat to drinking water in Florida Panhandle county

    Water

    To Waste Management, the nation's largest handler of garbage, the liquid that winds up at the bottom of a landfill is called "leachate," and it can safely be disposed of in a well that's 4,200 feet deep.

    Three samples that were displayed by Jackson County NAACP President Ronstance Pittman at a public meeting on Waste Management's deep well injection proposal. The sample on the left is full of leachate from the Jackson County landfill, the stuff that would be injected into the well. The sample on the right shows leachate after it's been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. The one in the middle is tap water.
  3. Registered sexual predator charged in assault of woman in Brooksville

    Public Safety

    Times Staff Writer

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County deputies arrested a registered sexual predator Thursday after they say he attempted to assault a woman and fled into a storm drain.

    Lee Roy Rettley has been charged with attempted homicide, attempted sexual battery and home invasion robbery.
  4. Honda denies covering up dangers of Takata air bags

    Autos

    With just a third of the defective Takata air bag inflators replaced nationwide, the corporate blame game of who will take responsibility — and pay — for the issue has shifted into another gear.

    Honda is denying covering up dangers of Takata air bags. | [Scott McIntyre, New York Times]
  5. Former CEO of Winn-Dixie parent joining Hong Kong company

    News

    The former CEO of the Jacksonville-based parent of Winn-Dixie grocery stores, Ian McLeod, has landed a new leadership role in Hong Kong. He is joining the pan-Asian based Dairy Farm International Holdings Ltd. as group chief executive.

    Ian McLeod, who is stepping down as the CEO of the parent company of Winn-Dixie, has been hired by Dairy Farm International Holdings. 
[Photo courtesy of Southeastern Grocers]