NBRC Construction LLC is under investigation by the Florida Department of Financial Services.
Homeowner Pia Vasconi.
Pia Vasconi thought it sounded like a pretty good deal when NBRC Construction LLC promised to install a new roof on her home last year completely paid by her storm damage insurance policy.
After NBRC filed a claim on her behalf, Vasconi's insurance company American Integrity Insurance issued checks totaling $17,499. NBRC hired contractors to do the work and that was that, or so it seemed. "They went ahead and went forward with everything," Vasconi said.
Robert Burguieres, a lawyer representing Gulf Eagle Supply, the vendor that supplied the roofing materials, is now threatening to file a lawsuit to foreclose on Vasconi's Tampa home unless she pays $2882 by the end of this week - money that her insurance company has already paid to NBRC as part of her insurance claim last year.
"I don't have the money," Vasconi said. "How am I the one that's at fault now?"
The answer to that question lies in Florida's arcane construction lien law that allows subcontractors and material suppliers to collect bad debts from homeowners, even when those homeowners have already paid a contractor for goods and services.
The purpose of the law is to protect members of the construction industry from cheating each other, but the effect in this case and many other NBRC customers is to punish a homeowner whose insurance company has already paid in full for a new roof.
"Now we're being victimized," said Vasconi. "And there's nothing we can do about it."
To make matters worse, NBRC Construction LLC is under investigation by the Florida Department of Financial Services for taking advantage of a growing number of homeowners by collecting insurance proceeds and failing to do the work, or failing to pay subcontractors and suppliers and sticking consumers with the debt through Florida's lien law.
"We've investigated and interviewed some past employees of NBRC and I would say we're just getting started, said Capt. Mike Byrne who runs the regional fraud investigation unit for the Florida Department of Financial Services.
An 8 On Your Side investigation revealed last September that the two men running NBRC, Carlton Dunko and Frank Pureber Jr., are out on bail after their theft arrests in Georgia in connection with a similar business scheme by their former company American Shingle and Siding Inc. Several months ago when we tried to interview Dunko and Pureber outside of their attorney's office, both men fled to their cars and quickly drove away. They do not answer phone calls.
Court records show their former business, American Shingle, operated in 11 states and collected more than $66 million in insurance claims before falling into bankruptcy amid consumer criticism and fraud investigations in multiple states by multiple agencies. The State of Arkansas has a judgment against American Shingle for civil fraud and has described that operation as a "Ponzi Scheme."
Byrne said Carlton and Pureber's more recent Florida business venture NBRC, which is legally owned by a Delaware corporation controlled by Dunko's wife, has filed about 1,200 insurance claims in the past several years claiming storm damage on residential homes.
In some cases, Byrne said NBRC performed the work as planned without a hitch. In other cases Byrne said NBRC collected the homeowner's insurance proceeds and never performed the repairs or failed to pay contractors and suppliers.
"We're establishing a victims list," said Byrne. "I can't give you an accurate count right now of how many victims are out there, but it is several hundred."
So far, Byrne says his investigators have subpoenaed bank records from 17 different business accounts affiliated with NBRC.
But none of that helps Pia Vasconi, who ironically works as a law enforcement officer in the Tampa Bay area. Vasconi is faced with paying up by Friday or possibly losing her home to foreclosure.
The whole mess has left her frustrated and angry at NBRC. "Violated in every sense of the word," said Vasconi. "I think they should be prosecuted."
Byrne said his unit's fraud investigation will take a while, because there are potentially hundreds of victims spanning various jurisdictions in at least five Tampa Bay area counties, thousands of records and the involvement of the state prosecutor.
Byrne said NBRC is no longer actively pursuing insurance claims and has moved on to other business ventures such as filing BP claims.
"It's going to be a time consuming investigation," said Byrne. He encourages anyone who feels victimized by NBRC or has more information on the case to contact him at (813) 972 8622 or lead investigator Lt. Carl Lane at (727) 563 1176.