Renovator charged with grand theft
Civil and criminal charges are not new for Frank Donofrio, who took over his parents' business.
By WAVENEY ANN MOORE, Times Staff Writer
Published September 5, 2007
Frank Edmund Donofrio, the Seminole man who has been accused by at least a dozen Pinellas County residents of failing to properly renovate their property and of setting them up with high interest loans to pay for the work, was arrested in Tampa last week.
Donofrio, 41, was charged with grand theft and acting in the capacity of a contractor without a license. The charges were the result of his dealings with a Tampa homeowner.
Donofrio, who was released on his own recognizance, has had a series of legal problems connected to his work in the renovation business.
- In 2005, he was arrested on a charge of grand theft in Pinellas County because of a contract he had with a 65-year-old St. Petersburg woman. The case is still pending.
- About two years ago, he was sued by almost a dozen Pinellas County residents for shoddy work and for setting them up with high interest loans. Some have since agreed to undisclosed financial settlements, but four are proceeding with the suit, according to their Clearwater attorney.
- Also in 2005, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation fined Donofrio $10,000 for using a contractor's license without the contractor's permission. Department spokesman Joe Friedman said Donofrio also had to pay the cost of the investigation.
- Most recently, a 65-year-old stroke victim and her son sued Donofrio and N&B Construction, the company in which he is a part owner. They are seeking damages for unfair and deceptive trade practices, breach of contract and fraud.
Sean K. McQuaid, Donofrio's lawyer, said his client's Tampa arrest is a mistake. He blamed Donofrio's recent troubles on his parents' deaths and his struggle to carry on in the construction business without them. McQuaid also blamed negative publicity generated by a handful of people.
The Tampa case "is a civil matter," the lawyer said.
"A gentleman by the name of Mr. Robert Williams is the complainant and we attempted to reach a civil settlement with him on numerous occasions but were unable to do so.
"This was a claim of improper workmanship, which, of course, we are denying."
McQuaid added that it's also incorrect that Donofrio, who lives at 10650 Park Place Drive, an upscale subdivision in Seminole, was operating without a contractor's license. His client is not involved in the actual construction end of the business, he said.
"He sets up the deal and then the licensed contractor is, in turn, responsible for executing the terms of the contract and that's exactly what happened with the Williams situation," the lawyer said.
For Tampa resident Sally Pinciaro, the face of the company is Donofrio. Pinciaro and her son, William, are suing Donofrio and his company for issues related to the work he did at their Town 'N Country home. She said she is relieved to hear of Donofrio's arrest.
"He shouldn't be allowed to do this to people," said Pinciaro, 65.
Her dispute with Donofrio began after she had a stroke last fall and needed to add a bedroom and bathroom to the first floor of her two-story home.
Pinciaro said she found out about Donofrio's company from a postcard he sent to her son's girlfriend's home in Carrollwood.
"It was quite lovely and his work looked wonderful and professional, so we called him and he showed up the next day in his Jaguar. My son's girlfriend met with him at first and she was impressed," Pinciaro said.
She and her son met with Donofrio on Nov. 3 and signed a contract for him to build a room at the back of their house that would include a kitchenette.
The garage was to be converted into a bedroom and bathroom. The pool would be covered. Pinciaro said she and her son gave Donofrio a $10,000 deposit for the $43,640 project.
According to Pinciaro, the goodwill rapidly evaporated. Donofrio didn't keep his promise to provide blueprints or get permits before beginning the work.
There were numerous other problems, Pinciaro said, adding that she insisted that work be stopped until the company got a permit.
It was months before Donofrio eventually got a permit, she said, and then only because he was untruthful about the project. This time, she halted the work permanently.
What had already been completed was shoddy, hazardous and not up to code, she said. Another contractor is now redoing the work and finishing the project, she said.
Times Researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2283.