Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Carmel on the Case: Seaview Shutters
Hurricane season is only days away. That means it's time to pray we don't get hit this year and prepare in case we do. For the customers of a troubled shutter company, that is easier said than done. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the case.
WSVN -- Most of us hate to even think about hurricane season, but it's a price we pay for living in paradise.
And preparations can be expensive -- especially when it comes to buying shutters.
Emil Hubschman: "Myself, it was $6,000."
Emil Hubschman and neighbors Hanna and Thomas Reinkopf say they are out a lot of money after putting down deposits for shutters more than a year ago.
They say, in all, 42 people in their Aventura condo and the building next door are out $200,000 in deposits.
Carmel Cafiero: "What did you get for that money?"
Emil Hubschman: "We got the runaround"
Hanna Reinkopf: "And a lot of promises."
They say they hired Seaview Industries of Miami after making sure it was licensed and had a good reputation.
But, today, there's a lock on the gate and Miami-Dade County is investigating the company's business practices.
Toby Cline: "We are investigating Seaview Industries. Whether it's a civil issue or an administrative issue or criminal issue, that's the specific point that we're investigating right now."
Miami-Dade County says dozens of Seaview customers have filed formal complaints.
Toby Cline: "Most of the complaints are about the shutters not being installed. People paid and they don't get their work -- they don't get their shutters."
And customers say they also don't get answers from the owner of the company.
Hanna Reinkopf: "He doesn't answer calls. He doesn't do anything."
Carmel Cafiero: "It turns out Seaview was a family operation. The father, Robert Cicero, ran the company and his son Matthew held the contractors license that allowed it to operate. Things were fine for years, but then something went very wrong."
Sam Fields: "He was never paid for this."
Attorney Sam Fields represents the son who, he says, received no money for helping his father's business.
Sam Fields: "And it wasn't until last summer that he became aware that many jobs were not being completed, at which time he told his father to just simply stop taking new business."
We were not able to reach Robert Cicero for comment on what happened to his company.
Carmel Cafiero: "Do you know what happened to the money?"
Sam Fields: "No, I naturally assume that much of it went into the operating overhead of the company."
There's no doubt the question of what happened to the money is one of the issues investigators are trying to answer.
Another is, will there be refunds?
Sam Fields: "But Matt is going to do the best he can to step up to the plate and encourage his father to step up there with him to make as much, if not everybody, whole."
But those customers are now facing another hurricane season without protection and without their deposit money.
Hanna Reinkopf: "We don't even have a company to do it this year anymore. We're late."
Toby Cline: "If Seaview can clear this up then we will obviously close the cases out. If they can't or they don't or they're unwilling, then we're going to proceed with our investigation."
And Seaview is by no means the only shutter company with problems.
State and local agencies are dealing with complaints against dozens of others.
In fact, one agency tells us 30 to 40 percent of its complaints right now are about shutter companies.
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