(WFLA) — Last April, the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board basically banned Rick Metz from performing work as a builder and remodeler in Pinellas County by revoking his registration. The county slapped Metz with $22,000 in fines and fees.
But, Metz is now back at work again remodeling a former gas station as a Tropical Smoothie store in Clearwater.
Not only is Metz supervising that job, he’s also Vice President of Bay Area L.L. Enterprises Inc, the construction company hired for that project. Metz is running the job on behalf of Tampa-based licensed contractor Robert E. Lofley III, and it’s all perfectly legal.
That infuriates and frustrates former customers who have labeled Metz “The Contractor from Hell” for his habit of abandoning home remodeling jobs and performing work that is so substandard that it often has to be redone at additional expense to customers.
“It bothers me that at this point he’s not in jail,” said James Moncrieff, who hired Metz several years ago for a major remodeling job at his Island Estates home in Clearwater.
“He’s conned so many people, telling them one thing and doing something else,” Moncrieff said.
“We had to tear out everything he did everything he did, tear it completely.”
Moncrieff and another former Metz customer, Sharyn Tucker, counted on the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation to sanction Metz for botching their jobs, but the DBPR dropped that case last August when Metz declared bankruptcy in Federal Court.
The DBPR had a 13-month head start on its probe of Metz’s business practices, but only invested a total of 15 hours investigating him before Metz derailed the state enforcement action against him with the bankruptcy action. The DBPR said it was powerless to move forward.
“The insult is that all the rules and all of the laws seem to be skewed toward the builder and none toward the consumer,” said Moncrieff.
Then, on December 28th, Pinellas prosecutors filed a misdemeanor charge against Metz for performing a bathroom remodeling job for customer Terri Taglia in Clearwater back in 2015 without a pulling a building permit.
Taglia claims he dragged the job out for seven months and his work was faulty.
“The tiles actually came up off the floor while they were working here,” Taglia said. “It’s still not complete.”
But, Pinellas prosecutor Gary White said he now has to drop that criminal charge due to a legal technicality — the state law that empowered him to go after Metz for criminal behavior changed, and the state no longer considers it a crime when licensed contractors fail to pull building permits, White said.
Taglia can’t understand why Metz still has a valid state license that enables him to work freely under his own license anywhere in Florida, except for Pinellas, where he has to be under the supervision of another licensed contractor.
“That’s astonishing,” Taglia said.”That’s really amazing that that could go on.There are at least a dozen people that I know who have been victims, maybe more of Mr. Metz.”
Meanwhile, Metz, who told the Federal Middle District Bankruptcy Court in Tampa last summer he is a $1 million in debt and his only means of transportation is a 1999 Ford Box Van, is now driving a silver Nissan 350Z sports car with a temporary tag. We spotted him in Clearwater driving his silver sports car to and from his Tropical Smoothie job site on Gulf To Bay Blvd.
Metz declined to comment on his current work status or apparent purchase of a luxury car amid his bankruptcy case.
“He’s learned how to bet the system,” said Moncrieff. “He’s probably been doing that for a long time.”
Despite dozens of consumer complaints alleging fraud, shoddy workmanship, and job abandonment racked up over the past six years, the Pinellas Licensing Board has done all that it can to keep Metz from harming more consumers, according to Executive Director Rod Fischer.
“We have forwarded our documents up to the state and hopefully they’ll move forward,” said Fischer.
“Its been over a period of years that we’ve investigated Metz and met with homeowners and met with Metz and urged him to get in there and finish the job.The jobs just languish and don’t get done.”
Metz still owes the licensing board more than $22,000 fines and fees, according to his bankruptcy petition.
Taglia says her disabled, elderly mother suffers from dementia and had to make do without a fully functional bathroom for seven months after she hired Metz in 2015.
Taglia insists that Metz never did finish the work she hired him to do and her mother suffered for his inaction.
“It was almost inhuman,” Taglia said.
- ‘Contractor from Hell’ targets Tampa Bay consumers
- Pinellas licensing board shuts down ‘contractor from Hell’
- Clearwater ‘contractor from hell’ faces new allegations
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