A Sarasota woman has been arrested on charges that she took a combined $130,000 from two Pinellas County homeowners to complete work inside their homes that was never completed.
Both homeowners told investigators they found the woman on Thumbtack, an online service that connects people with professionals such as movers and general contractors.
Janis Ann Roux, 58, faces charges of grand theft, unlicensed specialty contracting, failure to secure workers compensation coverage and starting construction without a permit. Arrest affidavits state that Roux used aliases on Thumbtack and that she has a history of fraud.
She was arrested Tuesday and was being held Thursday in the Pinellas County Jail without bail.
The first case started in early 2017 when an Illinois couple with a condo in Clearwater found Roux on Thumbtack running a business called Interior Secrets. They met with Roux, who was using the name Janis Bulli, during spring break. Roux showed them license and insurance documents and they hired her to remodel their three-bedroom, three-bath condo.
The paid her more than $107,000. But there were many problems, including the wrong furniture being delivered and work that wasn’t done.
The couple demanded a refund but never got one.
The case eventually landed with the Florida Department of Financial Services, where a criminal investigation was launched. An investigator determined Roux was not licensed, didn’t carry workers compensation and committed grand theft.
Investigators received another complaint from a St. Petersburg woman who said she had posted an advertisement on Thumbtack requesting help re-designing her kitchen, bathrooms and fireplace in May 2018.
The woman said she received a phone call from a woman identifying herself as Ann West from Ambiance Design Group. West, it was later determined, was actually Roux, arrest reports state.
Roux asked for $7,000 on June 13 for bathroom work. A week later, no new materials had arrived at the house, though a subcontractor had started demolition work.
The homeowner paid Roux another $16,000 for flooring and was told that the materials were on hold at the manufacturer. When the homeowner later called the manufacturer, she was told no order was ever placed.
The homeowner began doing internet research and learned that the woman she had hired was actually Roux, and that she was on probation for fraud.
The homeowner called Roux’s probation officer and told her what had happened. The homeowner said the probation officer told her that at least four similar cases involving Roux were under investigation in the Sarasota-Manatee area.
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The homeowner then found Roux’s address in Sarasota and confronted her, demanding a $20,000 refund. “Roux told her to get off her property,” the arrest affidavit states.
That case also ended up state financial services department, and resulted in additional criminal charges.
Roux has been appointed an assistant public defender. A not guilty plea has been entered on her behalf.