TAMPA, FL (WFLA) – Florida Division of Insurance Fraud investigators and local police in two states served arrest warrants Wednesday on eight suspects charged with bilking nearly 100 homeowners in six Tampa Bay area counties out of more than $500,000 in a scheme uncovered in an 8 On Your Side investigation more than a year ago.
The company at the center of this alleged con game was NBRC Construction LLC, a Tampa-based roofing company that garnered a notorious reputation for consumer rip-offs after 8 On Your Side began digging into its business practices.
In Milford Connecticut, one of NBRC’s founders, Carlton Dunko was conducting a sales meeting at the company he now runs when police and Florida Division of Insurance Fraud detectives burst in with an arrest warrant in hand signed by a Pinellas Judge.
“On display was the same marketing material they used in Tampa Bay,” said Florida fraud detective Carl Reschke who flew ito Connecticut Wednesday to make the arrests. “They’re doing the exact same thing. That’s waht they know.”
Another principal in NBRC, Frank Martin Pureber II was arrested by Milford Police Wednesday shortly before the Florida detectives arrived. Pureber now helps manage a new business Dunko in Milford. Reschke told Eight On Your Sid that employees of that company CTST Construction LLC knew the pair by the fictitious alias’ they used in Milford– Marty Smith and Carl Davis.
Back in Florida other state agents arrested Dunko’s wife Stacy at her rented luxury home in South Tampa. There were arrest warrants for five other individuals, some of whom were allowed to turn themselves in on the charge of organized fraud.
An arrest affidavit filed this week by Reschke and another detective on the case, Mike Scott, indicate that Dunko, Pureber and other principals behind NBRC lavished themselves with large salaries and spent a fortune on boats, meals and entertainment while defrauding scores of homeowners in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Polk, Pasco, Manatee and Sarasota counties.
The arrest of NBRC’s managers Wednesday marks a day that some of NBRC’s victims feared would never come.
“In today’s society you can’t depend on justice,” Largo homeowner Pamela Beynon told Eight On Your Side only last week. “It’s really sad.”
Not today, it isn’t.
Eight On Your Side joined a team of detectives who traveled to Milford, Connecticut Wednesday to serve arrest warrants on NBRC Managers Carlton Dunko, 45 and Frank Pureber III, age 36. We were there when they went off to a Connecticut jail in handcuffs for what they did to homeowners back in Florida.
Investigators say Dunko, his wife Stacy, 40, Pureber, III, and Bradenton resident Eric Shane Johnson, 36, orchestrated the NBRC scheme that began three years ago. The company’s profits were based on a promise to homeowners to replace their storm-damaged roofs through insurance claims.
Broken promises, bribed bank tellers, and money laundering
State insurance fraud detectives Carl Reschke and Michael Scott spent a year unraveling the NBRC scheme by interviewing dozens of witnesses and pouring over thousands of bank records to follow the money.
Those state agents discovered the same pattern we found in our own news investigation.
NBRC either kept the insurance proceeds after filing claims and failed to do the work or didn’t compensate contractors who did do the work. The unpaid contractors then went after homeowners for payment under Florida’s Lien law.
Arrest records show that NBRC employee Benjamin Mathews used his own company Spider Men LLC to help launder some of NBRC’s profits.
Reschke and Scott also allege NBRC illegally deposited insurance checks in its business accounts with inside help from former Chase bank tellers Christopher Rios, 30, Joel S. Deserio, 26 and Alexander Gomez, 25. The detectives say they determined through records and confessions that Rios, Deserio, and Gomez served as bank insiders paid by NBRC to process “improperly endorsed checks.” into NBRC business accounts at Chase Bank.
Investigators claim that by paying off the bank tellers and using remote online transactions, NBRC managed to deposit $2.2 million worth of insurance checks into its Chase Bank business accounts that never should have been processed.
Detectives determined another $1.2 million in “improperly endorsed checks” was deposited into NBRC business accounts at Wells Fargo with the help of a lead teller at that bank named Lucas Pacheco who “failed to verify the proper endorsements.”
Investigators say Pacheco admitted violating bank policy but denied receiving any compensation from NBRC. He is not charged with any criminal wrongdoing in this case but did lose his job. “Pacheco was terminated by Wells Fargo for violating bank policy,” records show.
Homeowners hit hard by fraud scheme
The money that ended up in NBRC coffers at Chase and Wells Fargo was supposed to pay for the replacement of storm-damaged roofs, but in about 100 cases documented by investigators, the work was either not completed or not paid for by NBRC resulting in construction liens filed against homeowners.
Homeowner Joe Zigler ended up with a $4000 lien on his home and a threat of foreclosure because suppliers weren’t paid for the materials used on his roofing job in Palm Harbor.
“It’s all wrong,” Zigler told 8 On Your Side last March. “It’s just dead wrong.”
RELATED: State investigates NBRC Construction’s business practices
Last week, Seminole homeowner Sarah Fava told 8 On Your Side her family lived under a blue tarp for months after NBRC filed an insurance claim in her behalf. Fava never did get the roof NBRC promised last year because the company kept the insurance proceeds and stopped returning dozens of calls by Fava and her husband.
“I think they should be caught and prosecuted and serve their time and have to pay everyone back that they did it to,” Fava told 8 On Your Side. “I’d be excited even if we didn’t get our money back.”
Getting any money back for NBRC customers, even after Wednesday’s suspect round-up, is going to be a challenge.
NBRC founders formerly ran American Shingle
Dunko and Pureber have a long and troubled record of ripping off homeowners in 10 other states, not including Connecticut where they set up shop this year under a company called CTST Construction LLC, to once again sell roofs to consumers that would be paid for by storm damage insurance claims.
Before they started NBRC in 2011, Dunko and Pureber were principals in a Georgia company called American Shingle. That company, founded in 2008, generated in excess of $65 million in revenue and operated for nearly three years in 11 states through what the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office later characterized as a “Ponzi Scheme.”
Like NBRC, American Shingle’s business plan revolved around soliciting homeowners for new roofs under the pretense that storms had caused enough damage to merit an insurance claim that would pay for a full replacement.
American Shingle (and NBRC) promised to process the claim at no expense to the homeowner as long as the homeowners signed an “Assignment of Benefits” or AOB.
The AOB enabled the companies to directly collect insurance proceeds and–in theory–pay contractors directly for the roof replacements without having to involve homeowners in any of the paperwork or construction contracting.
But just like investigators allege with NBRC, American Shingle left countless homeowners hanging without a roof or stuck them with a fortune in liens for unpaid roof work and supplies. Once the signed an AOB, consumers lost all control over their own insurance claims.
NBRC founders in financial trouble before
An Arkansas court has fined Dunko, Pureber and other named defendants who operated American Shingle $1 million for defrauding at least 105 consumers and ordered them to pay $442,648 in restitution.
Dunko and Pureber unsuccessfully tried to dodge that judgment by filing for bankruptcy in Tampa in 2012. There is no indication that either man has paid back a dime to help the homeowners they exploited in Arkansas.
American Shingle’s business fortunes eventually crashed under the weight of bad publicity, a nationwide alert by the Better Business Bureau, and the theft related arrests of Dunko , Pureber and two other American Shingle managers in Macon, Georgia in February 2011.
Dunko and Pureber quickly bailed out of the Macon jail and moved to Florida where they then started NBRC. They have never been prosecuted by the Bibb County District Attorney in Macon as a result of their Georgia arrest and there is little likelihood they ever will be.
They simply started a new business under a new name in Florida. Only, this time, Dunko disguised the ownership of NBRC because of his notoriety with American Shingle.
In a sworn statement as part of his bankruptcy case in Tampa Dunko explained, “Well, I obviously can’t put anything in my name; I have a nice lawsuit coming from the State of Arkansas.”
And that wasn’t the only reason.
“The other reasons why I can’t put anything in my name, Google is a wonderful tool today,” Dunko said. “And people see my name don’t understand what they read online is not fact and it would hurt anything I ever did, therefore I consult.”
Living large while customers suffered
Dunko was in the middle of a Tampa bankruptcy proceeding and facing a $1.5 million judgment from Arkansas when he started NBRC in 2011. That made it was awkward if not impossible for him to show any income from his new enterprise.
Through a labyrinth of corporate filings, Dunko made sure his wife Stacy and other associates were the titular owners of NBRC and claimed in his bankruptcy case that he didn’t earn a dime from NBRC.
But according to bank records obtained by Reschke and Scott, there was a very good reason why Dunko could afford to rent the swanky South Tampa home at 4415 W. El Prado where he’s been living for the past few years with his wife, children and in-laws who occupy an adjoining residence on the property.
The detectives determined that NBRC paid Stacy Dunko $163,800 from August 2011 through October 2013. And although the NBRC ledgers don’t show any salary for Carlton Dunko, the detectives did conclude Dunko spent $132,000 “on his NBRC debit card” from October 2011 through January 2013.
Detectives also found bank records revealing that Pureber collected $91,000 in salary and spent $58,000 on his NBRC debit card. The other principal in this scheme, Eric Shane Johnson, collected $199,900 in paychecks and spent $98,000 on his NBRC debit card.
“A large amount of these debit card purchases made by all four individuals were for restaurant and entertainment expenses,” the arrest affidavit states.
NBRC managers left behind a boat and three jet skis when they abandoned their Tampa Headquarters at 6426 Causeway Blvd last fall. They later sent an underling to collect the boat and jet skis according to the landlord who tells Eight On Your Side NBRC still owes him thousands in back rent.
Somehow Dunko, Pureber and their associates still enjoy the trappings of success despite their various bankruptcies, civil judgments and the collapse of NBRC.
The same can’t be said for Pamela Beynon, a Largo homeowner who signed up with NBRC for a new roof 16 months ago. Beynon tells 8 On Your Side she still lives under a leaky roof because NBRC deposited her insurance proceeds and disappeared. Beynon insists she can’t afford to purchase a new roof with her own money due to mounting medical bills.
It just makes me so angry,” Beynon tells 8 On Your Side. “I want to see them in jail. I want my money back.”
Beynon’s first wish came true Wednesday, but the second one may prove difficult since The Dunkos and Pureber have been claiming bankruptcy for years.
What happens next?
Currently, the Dunkos, Pureber and Johnson all have $500,000 jail bonds. Bail for the other four defendants is set at $100,000.
Even if they can raise the cash, Dunko and Pureber may find it more difficult to get out of jail now than they did three years ago after their theft arrest in Macon, Georgia.
Diane Croff, Tampa Chief in the Statewide Prosecutor’s Office who has spent countless hours putting together this fraud case against NBRC, is asking the judge to hold a hearing that forces all eight defendants to prove the source of any bail money or collateral “was lawfully obtained.”
Whatever the outcome, Sarah Fava–who watched the interior of her family’s home deteriorate from water damage for months after NBRC took her insurance proceeds—told Eight On Your Side last week exactly what she’d like to see happen.
“I think they should be caught and prosecuted and serve their time,“ said Fava. “And have to pay everyone back that they did it to.”
The troubles of NBRC ringleaders Dunko and Pureber no longer end in Florida. Milfordd police were busy obtaining search warrants Wednesday night for their new venture in Connecticut.
“I suspect they’re going to be opening an investigation into the present daycompanyy here,” said Reschke during an interview in front of the Milford Police Department.
Dunko and Pureber were scheduled to appearin frontt of aMilfordd judge Thursday afternoon as precurser to their extradition back to Florida. Bond for each man is set at $500,000.