Remodeler draws state attorney's focus
Dozens complain about the work done or high interest loans.
By WAVENEY ANN MOORE
Published February 4, 2007
Frank Edmund Donofrio, a Seminole businessman whom homeowners have accused of doing shoddy remodeling projects paid for with high interest loans he helped arrange, is being investigated by the State Attorney's Office and the St. Petersburg Police Department.
More than three dozen people have complained about Donofrio, 40, over the past two years, said St. Petersburg police Sgt. Kevin Smith. More people came forward after a recent Neighborhood Times story about a St. Petersburg couple who accused Donofrio of failing to complete home remodeling work and setting them up with a high interest loan to pay for it.
One of the cases investigators are looking into is that of Lynne Marie Mayes, who was once friends with Donofrio.
Donofrio had promised to help Mayes while she was going through a divorce and foreclosure, according to her St. Petersburg lawyer, Warren J. Knaust.
Instead, Knaust said in court papers Donofrio defrauded her of her home and is now trying to evict her for not paying rent. In the documents filed in December, Knaust said Donofrio got the house "through fraud, artifice and deceit."
He also claims the deed was not executed in the presence of the witness shown on the deed and the signature is not that of the notary.
Donofrio disputed the accusations. "That's a lady that came to me saying that I am losing my house. I'm going through a divorce. Can you help me? The title company handled the whole transaction. I gave her $3,000 cash and $10,000 to pay the mortgage out of foreclosure," he said. "In the last year and half we have run 500 to 600 jobs and you're going to have problems. We work so hard to make everybody happy."
Donofrio's lawyer Jeffery M. Wilkins said the state attorney's investigation has been going on for two years and they have "failed to file any new charges."
"He's a business owner and he's trying to make a living," Wilkins said.
Linda and Olufemi Quintin Buraimoh, who live in St. Petersburg's Childs Park neighborhood, lodged the most recent complaints about Donofrio.
The couple said they hired him to build a porch enclosure and install a white vinyl fence, but the work was done shoddily and never finished. Donofrio also set them up with a high-interest mortgage, they say.
Linda Buraimoh said she has spoken with the State Attorney's Office and shared financial documents.
In October 2005, Donofrio was arrested and charged with grand theft in connection with his transaction with a 65-year-old St. Petersburg woman. That case is ongoing.
Also, Donofrio made a confidential settlement with four of 10 homeowners who sued him that same year.
Donofrio, who lives in an upscale subdivision in Seminole, has operated under several companies. Under Five Star Remodeling Consultants and Five Star Building Consultants, he solicited work by hanging colorful fliers on doorknobs that told homeowners their neighborhoods had been approved for "Operation Redevelopment."
St. Petersburg police, economic crimes unit, (727) 893-7618.
City of St. Petersburg, housing and community development, WIN assistance programs, (727) 893-7247.
Tips for homeowners
1. Be suspicious of anyone who comes to your door and of all mailings.
2. Check references. Call the Better Business Bureau and consumer organizations.
3. Check the Internet.
4. Be suspicious of any construction person who is also a broker and can set up your loan.
5. Make sure the funds can be escrowed. Release the money as phases of the project are completed.
6. Check construction licenses.
Source: Gulfcoast Legal Services
[Last modified February 3, 2007, 20:34:40]
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