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State closes cases against unlicensed contractor; more complaints surface

Louis C. Franck a.k.a Lou Frank dodges charges in 1 case

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – Louis C. Franck a.ka. Lou Frank and a man identified as his "customer contact," Carl Dickey, are accused of preying on seniors and charging them for a service they are not licensed to perform.

Even after state regulators told Franck to stop, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) closed the cases. The Broward State Attorney's Office declined to move forward with charges in one case, and now a new complaint into the Call Christina hotline has surfaced from yet another consumer victim out thousands of dollars.

"As long as nothing is done and cases keep getting closed, it will continue to go on and on," stated licensed mold assessor Richard McMonagle, who filed a complaint against Franck with DBPR in 2014.

"He goes in knowing what he is doing is wrong," McMonagle said.

THE COMPLAINT INTO CALL CHRISTINA:

JoAnne Kralich decided to Call Christina with a double billing dispute.

In 2013, a handwritten receipt by a company called Advanced Air Duct Cleaning indicates they charged her $1,000 to "kill and remove all mold from duct system." It also states there is a 5-year warranty. The name on that receipt is Carl Dickey.

Just two years later, the company came back. Kralich said she was told by Franck that "you have black mold. I can smell it," which she said, "scared the tar out of me."

Franck's handwritten receipt shows he charged her $1,800 to "kill" and "remove mold and mildew." There is also a notation about an "air scruber" and "ozone machine."

When she went to file the receipt she spotted the 2013 receipt which indicated there was a warranty. 

"I said, 'these people have already been here,'" Kralich said.

She called Franck to ask about the warranty and get a refund. When he wouldn't return her calls she Called Christina.

"I would just like them to admit that they were dishonest and reimburse me partially," she said.

In both incidents, Kralich said they approached her about the service. 

"They called to ask if I had my air conditioning ducts cleaned. It was unsolicited. I didn't call them," she said. "And then they came back the second time on their own. He said, 'You got black mold.' He made it sound real."

Over the phone, Dickey and Franck pointed fingers at each other, neither of them stepping up to refund Kralich.

Local 10 News chased publicly listed addresses for both men, but it would turn out they didn't currently live at any of them.

State records show the company name "Advanced Air Duct Cleaning Services Co." with Franck as the registered agent has been dissolved since 2001.

The address on the business card Franck provided Kralich is a home property records show he used to own two years ago.

Over the phone Dickey said he used to work with Franck. He also claimed to be licensed, but county and state records show no license in his name.

"I was scammed," Kralich said.

PATTERN OF COMPLAINTS:

Franck and Dickey have racked up nearly a dozen county and state complaints since 2011.

People have complained to state regulators about Dickey and Franck cold-calling seniors to pitch their air duct mold remediation service.

The cases reviewed by Local 10 News involve senior citizens in their 80s and 90s.

Several people also said the pair asked seniors to leave their house for several hours while they performed the work.

According to the Broward County Environmental Licensing and Building Permitting Division and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, neither man has a license to perform mold remediation.

"It appears that Louis C. Franck began the application process for a Mechanical Journeyman's certificate of competency on 7/26/05; however, on 2/10/06 he was advised that the exam board did not approve him," Broward County regulatory attorney Kimberly Cunningham Mosley said. "According to the records, as for Mr. Franck, he was cited in 2006 for contracting without a license -- case #06-0035U -- and the citation was paid. Currently it appears that Mr. Franck does not have an active license in the county or the state."

LACK OF ENFORCEMENT?

In two cases, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation told Franck to cease and desist, but then closed the cases.

One of those cases related to a complaint filed by McMonagle on behalf of a family friend in her late 90s.  

McMonagle said Franck is "cold calling them and going in under a scam of a duct cleaning thing for $99 and once he is there hiking it up to $1,488 for the mold remediation that is not necessary. There is no assessment, no hypothesis, no investigation that there was mold. He has some magic beans machine. It is not real."

State records show Franck was issued a cease and desist in August of 2014.

According to an investigator's notes, Franck said he was "not aware" that he needed a license to perform mold-related work.  

The closing order states that, "there is insufficient evident that the Subject performed any mold services, it is unlikely the Department would be able to provide a complaining witness. Additionally, the Subject stated he would no longer perform any mold remedial services. Thus, further prosecution is not warranted at this time."

The subject would do it again, and again, and again.

In a subsequent case, DBPR issued Franck a cease and desist Jan. 28, 2015. DBPR also closed the case.

DBPR referred both cases to the Broward State Attorney's office for possible criminal violations.

In the case related to McManagle's complaint to DBPR, the Broward State Attorney's Office declined to prosecute. The Broward State Attorney's Office tells Local 10 News that investigators could not provide a witness affidavit and it was declined as there would be no likelihood of a conviction if it went to trial.

In the other case referred by DBPR, the Broward State Attorney's Office told Local 10 News Friday afternoon that it did file against Franck.

Franck was charged with working as an unlicensed contractor after taking $99.99 from the victim. He was arraigned in front of Judge Lerner Wren on April 9, 2015,  and he pleaded no contest, which means he didn't deny doing it and thus he was found guilty by the court. 

The judge withheld his formal adjudication. The judge ordered that restitution be paid. The amount was reserved, meaning a hearing still must be held.

"We routinely prosecute these kinds of cases when they’re presented to us by law enforcement," said Broward State Attorney’s Office spokesman Ron Ishoy. "We take them very seriously."

The date on Kralich's receipt is nearly a full year after Franck received the second cease and desist notice.

"The problem lies with closing the case by DBPR. As long as nothing is done and cases keep getting closed it will continue to go on and on," McMonagle said. "I pay to be licensed. I go through training every two years. I have to pay for insurance, which in my case is $2,600 a year. I have to do all these things to follow the statute, and these guys run around and do nothing and just rip people off."

"He found a vulnerable person," Sarah Albert said. "I am sure he decided he could do this again with impunity that no one was going to stop him."

Albert, who lives in Vermont, filed a complaint in 2013 with the Florida Attorney General's Office on behalf of her aunt, Elizabeth Albert, who was 92 at the time and living in Pompano Beach. 

She said Dickey cold called her aunt and then charged her $784.

Albert told investigators in her complaint that when she questioned him about the service he insisted that her aunt had made the appointment, "even though HE was the one who'd called her. He said he called her number because he had previously done work on her apartment and was calling back, but that story doesn't hold. He didn't do the work while my aunt lived there (5 years) and the previous tenant would have had a different phone number."

Albert said Dickey then returned in June of 2015 and charged her aunt, now 95, an additional $289.

"So he gets reprimanded. He just finds other victims," Albert said.

She said she would like to see regulators step in and put a stop to their actions.

"There is such an incredibly vulnerable population there and they are people who very often have memory loss issues," Albert said. "They are also the generation that doesn't question authority very easily and it seems they feel like they have a right to victimize them. They (seniors) should be protected a lot better than they are being protected right now."

McMonagle said based on statute, the fact that he's offering the service for a fee without a license should be enough for regulators and prosecutors to take action.

"I think it is outright fraud -- outright fraudulent representation," McMonagle said.

"I was angry, embarrassed, but mostly angry," Kralich said. "They were dishonest. I want to prevent anyone else from going through this. This is wrong."