No charges against contractor blamed for shoddy, unfinished work

8 On Your Side

WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. (WFLA) — The details behind seven complaints involving more than $400,000 worth of construction work did not offer enough evidence to seek criminal charges against Danny Musgrove, according to the state attorney.

But victim Brenda Digeon, whose dream home became a nightmare of missed deadlines and poor craftsmanship, has a critical opinion of that decision.

“Absolutely, he should do jailtime,” Digeon said “You can give me a judgment saying he owes me the money. I know he owes me the money. I also know he doesn’t have it.”

After two years of tracking Musgrove’s path of angry homeowners, 8 On Your Side discovered the Digeon’s claim shadowed other complaints.

Tim and Beth Smetana say they paid Musgrove’s now defunct DRAC Construction about $170,000 to build a home in Plant City, but the couple claims he completed about 60 percent of the work with poor results that included missing rebar in the walls and a garage door hung so low it could open a cut on your forehead before even opening the garage

His subcontractors weren’t paid, forcing the Smetanas to cover their costs as well to remove liens from their property.

“He’s totally destroyed our dream home and our retirement,” Tim Smetana said.

The Digeons paid Musgrove $111,000 for work they said had to be redone and paid for again after he left the job.

“Extremely frustrated,” Digeon said before a long pause. “Heartbroken.”

Despite these and other claims, the Pasco, Pinellas State Attorney decided the facts of the Musgrove case, “do not warrant prosecution at this time.”

“I don’t know that I’ll ever have closure because he’s never going to be held accountable,” Digeon said.

Digeon’s frustration is understandable, according to Assistant State Attorney Scott Rosenwasser, but he said the law requires the state to prove a contractor had the intent to defraud at the time they took the money.

“You can’t do what you feel is right; you do what you can prove,” Rosenwasser said. “Did this guy do the morally wrong thing? 100 percent. The case law is not on our side.”

Digeon hoped prosecuting Musgrove would set an example that would make dishonest contractors think before they ripped off a customer.

“The state needs to make of an example out of this guy,” Digeon said. “And send out the message to other people who come to this state and think that they’re going to get away with it that they’re not. The state has had enough.”

One suggestion from Digeon to avoid being victimized is check court records for civil complaints against the would-be contractor.

Musgrove was named in several lawsuits, according to Digeon.

“That’s the one thing we did not check,” Digeon said. “We would’ve never hired him.”

Rosenwasser said homeowners having issues with contractors should send them written demands in the form of a certified letter that includes elements covered in the statute.

According to the law, the letter should include a demand to apply for the necessary permits and a demand to start the work or refund the money received in excess of the value of the work performed.

Rosenwasser suggested hiring an attorney who specializes in contractor law.

While Digeon remains frustrated by a lack of charges, she also hopes what happened to her will help others avoid similar problems.

“He has felt nothing from this,” Digeon said. “Meanwhile, my family’s still trying to pick up the pieces.”

Musgrove was fined $87,500 by the Department of Business Regulation, but the money would only come due if he applies to reinstate his license.

Digeon applied in December for compensation from the Construction Recovery Fund but has yet to receive anything from the state.

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