TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The office of Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody is taking legal action against a Tampa-based solar company that was the subject of a Better Call Behnken investigation.
At a news conference Tuesday, Moody discussed a civil complaint involving M.C. Solar and Roofing and its owners—Armando Almirall, Raman Chopra, and Michael Crowder, who are accused of “scamming hundreds of Floridians.”
“We are taking legal action to permanently ban these scam artists from ever conducting business in Florida again and seeking restitution for consumers,” Moody said.
Consumer Investigator Shannon Behnken started getting complaints about M.C. Solar last spring. One of those consumers was Michele Helterline, of Sarasota. She was stuck making loan payments on a solar system that was already not functioning properly.
“Once the inspector came, they were supposed to come back and they never came back, they never called me, and I couldn’t get in touch with them anymore,” Helterline said in May.
Moody said the homeowners accusing M.C. Solar of fraud include seniors, veterans and people with disabilities, Moody said. The company was accused of going door-to-door and “enticing” homeowners to sign contracts under the impression they would qualify for federal subsidies and be covered under warranty.
“Our investigation has revealed that the defendants conducted extremely deceptive and unfair trade practices to convince Floridians—a large number of them seniors, some who had difficulty even understanding what they were contracting – to commit to large financing agreements, leaving them on the hook for large payments for work that was never completed,” Moody said.
According to Moody, customers reported lengthy waits for service and damage after solar panels were installed—if the work was completed at all.
“One consumer reportedly waited on hold with the company for more than seven hours. Frustrated consumers also visited the Tampa office, to which the defendants fled and locked the doors,” Moody said.
The customers left without functioning solar panels were shelling out their financing payments to M.C. Solar on top of their normal utility costs.
“What was so shocking to the conscience is that, in many instances, people were desperately trying to pay both, and at the same time, these bad actors were liening their homes,” Moody said.
The company and its owners were accused of hiring an attorney to go after consumers who cancelled their finance agreements. According to Moody, they “sent demand letters with increased invoices and attorney fees.”
M.C. Solar was also accused of failing to pay its subcontractors and suppliers.
Behnken asked Moody if she thinks crimes were committed, and she responded that there is a criminal investigation and that several agencies could be involved.