Make us your home page

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.


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 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

  1. With election heating up, Bill Nelson floods Tampa Bay


    Sen. Bill Nelson seems to have set up a residency in Tampa Bay, a crucial area for his upcoming re-election campaign.

    Nelson campaigns with his wife in Orlando in 2012
  2. Martinez Middle School evacuated after bomb threat


    LUTZ — Bob Martinez Middle School has been evacuated after someone called in a bomb threat, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said.

  3. Another local Confederate display sparks division, this one over name of the war


    TAMPA — While the Hillsborough County commission was wrestling over the future of Confederate monument at the county courthouse, a lawsuit has been playing out in court over how best to represent the Civil War across town at Veterans Memorial Park.

    Supporters of a Civil War display at Veterans Memorial Park and Museum had a brochure made to attract donations. They argue in a lawsuit that their efforts were thwarted when the park's executive committee changed their plans.
  4. Myrtle Avenue closed, man hospitalized after Clearwater bike crash


    CLEARWATER — Myrtle Avenue is closed in both directions following a bicycle crash that hospitalized a man with serious injuries.

  5. 'Candle in the Wind' was the perfect song at a tragic moment

    Music & Concerts

    When's the last time you listened to the biggest pop single of the modern era?

    John’s recording of Something About the Way You Look Tonight/Candle in the Wind 1997 was certified eight times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America in its first day of release in the United States.