Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Carmel on the Case: Elderly Mess
The Miami-Dade Police Department is investigating a loan that could cost a South Florida senior the home she has lived in for decades. And, once again, the misery involves an unlicensed contractor. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the Case.
WSVN -- Lorraine Jollivette has lived in the same house in Miami for about 40 years.
Lorraine Jollivette: "Well, I like to be in my own house, that's the truth. I'd rather be in my house than anywhere else."
Today she is down to a few plastic chairs. She sleeps in a bed in the living room, which is surrounded by construction debris.
And she doesn't even have a kitchen. Her family brings her take-out meals. All this after a contractor was paid nearly $50,000 to repair her home.
Dan Tropp: "She's stuck with this house that's almost unlivable."
Attorney Dan Tropp says the trouble started when Lorraine took out a second mortgage for $74,000 for repairs. Over the next two months, Tropp says, nearly $50,000 of her money was wired to an unlicensed contractor.
Dan Tropp: "I mean, who in Miami sends out all the money to a general contractor before the work gets done? And, on top of that, look at the condition of the house right now. She's living in squalor."
Anthony Clark is the contractor. His company, Prestige Integrity General Contractors and Developers, once operated out of a private mailbox facility in Aventura.
Jose Lezcano, Miami-Dade Building Code Compliance Supervisor: "He is unlicensed, the company is unlicensed."
Miami-Dade County says he shouldn't have been paid one dime.
Jose Lezcano: "He has no business doing any work in Miami-Dade County or the State of Florida, in fact. He is not licensed."
The county says the work at Lorraine's house is substandard and illegal. Anthony Clark declined an interview but, by phone, said there are three sides to every story, and we didn't have his. However, he would give no details.
Jose Lezcano: "Right now we are investigating. The case has been forwarded to Miami-Dade Police for possible arrest. He is going to be charged with contracting without a license, grand theft."
Attorney Dennis Bedard represents the person who loaned Lorraine the money. He also wired the payments to the contractor.
We caught up with him after a meeting with Lorraine's lawyer.
Dennis Bedard: "How did I wire $50,000?"
Carmel Cafiero: "Right, why did you do that?"
Dennis Bedard: "Because I had authorization from both the buyer and the contractor to do that."
And Lorraine did sign this document that authorizes Bedard to release the funds. But another document indicates he would "verify that the general contractor has obtained permits from the city of Miami for all work performed and that all work has been approved by the City of Miami."
That never happened.
The Miami-Dade Police Department says it has an open investigation.
Carmel Cafiero: "What is the scope of the department's investigation into what happened to Lorraine Jollivette?"
Bobby Williams: "Detectives are looking into the entire transaction, not just one specific portion of it."
While the investigation goes on, Lorraine waits in the shell of her home.
Carmel Cafiero: "Do you have the money to finish on your own?"
Lorraine Jollivette: "No, I don't because that's a lot of money."
Her best hope, it seems, is the authorities, and the young attorney who is representing her for free.
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