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Beacon customers gather for support

Clyde Hoeldtke Jr.'s customers aren't very happy with him.

"He's an animal," one said.

"He's a demon," another said.

"You want to get a lynch mob together?" a third asked. "I'll hit the horse on the back."

These sentiments set the tone Thursday night at the first meeting of the Beacon Action Group, a support group for disgruntled customers of Hoeldtke's company, Beacon Homes.

The group was organized by Roger Biver and Daniel Rieg, customers who say Hoeldtke has taken them for thousands of dollars by promising to finish their homes and then not seeing the construction through.

"We're just here to help each other," Biver said. "This is no joking anymore. A lot of these people have lost a lot of money."

About 50 people attended the meeting. Most were customers, but a few contractors and subcontractors also came. They claimed Hoeldtke hired them to do work on houses and then closed with the buyers before paying the bills.

"Clyde has a total disrespect for the people, the state (and) the laws," said Jim Marci, who said his sprinkler company, Core Service Corp., is owed more than $6,000 by Beacon Homes. "(What Hoeldtke has done) is out-and-out fraud."

Hoeldtke did not attend the meeting. He acknowledged the group with a letter, which he sent to the organizers and local media. "I pledge full support to your support group," he wrote. "I believe that organizing yourselves will be extremely helpful." He went on to repeat his pledge to move "Beacon families" into their homes lien-free and to pay all creditors within two years.

Biver told the audience about the letter. Several people snickered, giggled and laughed out loud.

"Clyde has perfected the art of buying time," said Ann Henry, a Beacon Homes customer from Fort Myers. She, her husband, Robert, and their two daughters, Elisa, 6, and Kristen, 2, are living in a small $450-a-month apartment because their home was never completed.

Robert Henry said that just 2{ months before they were to close on the house, they still had a vacant lot and no permits filed and Beacon Homes wasn't even licensed to build in the county.

"Clyde Hoeldtke did everything he could . . . to protect himself and make you vulnerable," he said.

That's why the group was formed, organizers said, to combat the frustration and powerlessness people feel.

"The strength of this case is in the numbers," said Sgt. Oonagh Guenkel of the Pasco County Sheriff's Office economic crime unit. She was there to answer questions and assure customers that the criminal investigation into Hoeldtke's activities is continuing.

State Rep. Phillip Mishkin, D-New Port Richey, also attended. He said he would ask his staff to look into changing the laws that regulate the home building industry.

"This is the greatest fraud that has (ever) been perpetrated on the people of Pasco County," he said. "I want to see to it that the laws of Florida are strengthened so that this kind of thing never happens again."

Carol Rieg, Daniel's wife and an avid activist in the controversy, read from a statement of the group's objectives.

"We need your knowledge and your voices . . . to become effective," she said. "We are victims. We all feel it. Our families feel it.

"We can stop this and we shall prevail."