Trusted worker is accused of fraud

After years of helping those at a Clearwater mobile home park, he started scamming them, a sheriff's deputy says.

Published July 29, 2006

Donald G. Kohner had been a fixture at the Doral Village mobile home park, a popular and reliable handyman who earned residents' trust after years of fixing up their homes, officials said.

But then last year, Kohner, 50, began to take advantage of that trust, collecting thousands of dollars in deposits for work that he never completed, said sheriff's Detective Mike Nawrocki, a member of the criminal enterprise division. Kohner initially gave excuses for the delayed work, then stopped returning residents' calls, Nawrocki said.

"Everyone knew him," Nawrocki said. "If they had a problem, they called Don. But he then turned to the dark side, and I have no idea why."

So far, Nawrocki said, he knows of eight victims at Doral Village who gave Kohner $29,000 in deposits for work he never did. But the detective thinks Kohner may have ripped off many other mobile home owners across North Pinellas. Nawrocki asks that those people come forward.

Nawrocki's investigation began in January after he received a call from a Doral Village manager who said Kohner had scammed residents at the park, 29250 U.S. 19 N. Nawrocki interviewed the eight victims, one of whom said he paid Kohner $14,000 for a new roof and extension to a mobile home.

All of them said they felt betrayed, Nawrocki said.

"They felt that he was a friend and he just gave them a big slap in the face," the detective said.

Nawrocki said he made several attempts to speak to Kohner at home or by phone but never could find him. In June, he obtained a warrant for Kohner's arrest, and Kohner was taken into custody July 18.

He remained Friday at the Pinellas County Jail in lieu of $40,000 bail. He faced eight counts of grand theft and scheme to defraud.

Jacob H. Fries can be reached at jfries@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4156.