BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – Abdon Williams said he didn't know what else to do.
He reached out to the Leave it to Layron team in March hoping to resolve an issue with the contractor he hired to install hurricane shutters on his Deerfield Beach home.
Williams said he'd paid Jeff Miller, the owner of Millerspec, $1,840 as a deposit for the shutters. Miller was scheduled to install the shutters on March 3, but never showed.
The LITL team called, texted, and dropped by two different Broward County homes listed as business addresses for Millerspec. Miller finally returned our phone calls and claimed he wanted to make things right.
"Mistakes are made," he said. "And, unfortunately, it gets passed on to my customers."
Williams was willing to renegotiate his contract with Miller — stipulating that the remaining balance for the job would be paid once the shutters were installed and passed inspection. Miller agreed to those terms, and a new, March 29 install date was set.
That date came and went, and Williams contacted the LITL team after Miller was, again, a no-show.
Soon after Williams' story aired, the LITL team received emails and phone calls from several other South Florida homeowners claiming they'd also paid Millerspec thousands of dollars in deposits for hurricane shutter installations, only to have Miller not show up or not finish the work.
One customer sued Miller in Broward County small claims court for nearly two-thousand dollars and won. The judge entered a default judgment against Miller in March.
Our second search for Miller led us to William Trick's Pompano Beach law office. Trick acknowledged he was the registered agent for Miller's business. He's also listed as the registered agent at Sunbiz.org, the website for the state of Florida's Division of Corporations.
Trick said he was not authorized to give us much information, but said he had no dealings with Millerspec's operations and does not legally represent Miller.
"I will be resigning as registered agent shortly," Trick said. We asked him why he was resigning, but he would not give us an answer.
The LITL team also called Broward County's consumer protection office, where we were able to speak with Delroy Aiken, an investigator with building code services.
Aiken said after we called, he went looking for Miller's contractors' license. He searched the county and state databases, but did not find a current license for Millerspec or Miller.
"If you're not licensed in the state of Florida, that's a felony," said Aiken. Aiken said by merely advertising shutter installation — as Millerspec does on its website -- without having a license to perform the work, Miller is violating the law.
Aiken also warned that unlicensed contractors are often hard to track down.
"They might be here, this month and couple of days later, you go by the last known address you have for them and they're gone," he said.
He said his job is now finding Miller and citing him for the alleged violations.
"It's crazy," said Samantha Malik, another one of Miller's customers. "I never let these things happen to me and I got played by this dude."
Malik and her husband, Lawrence Fung, have taken on part-time jobs: trying to find Jeff Miller.
They've called, texted, gone by some of the same addresses the LITL team visited. They did find Miller in an unexpected place: the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's sex offender registry.
"Do your research, look up [their] licenses, [do] background checks," Malik said.
She and her husband hired Miller last fall to renovate their very first home. They said they've paid him close to $16,000.
"Every day, you're driving home, knowing you have to walk in here and deal with this," Fung said.
Miller's tools, trash and one of his work trailers is still at the couple's Tamarac home.
The floors are still unfinished and so are the ceilings. Recessed lights dangle in the kitchen and plumbing and tile work is incomplete in the master bedroom. Malik cannot cook in her kitchen. She also cannot park her car in her garage. That's where she's storing all of her furniture.
"It's just been a disaster," she said. "I just want it to be over."
Broward County has a restitution trust fund for residents who file complaints against contractors, and can show proof that they've lost money. Those residents can then apply for up to $5,000 in restitution.
"Do your due diligence," Fung said. "Know who you're dealing with."
We then spoke with Aiken, who had only received one complaint about Miller from a Miami-Dade County resident. Broward County's contractor licensing enforcement investigators only have jurisdiction within the county.
The resident was referred to Miami-Dade's consumer protection office.
Officials advise Millerspec customers who have lost money to file police reports. Again, it's a crime to advertise or perform contractor services that you're not licensed to do so.
Broward County's Contractor Licensing Enforcement section can help verify local licensing information, and you can also access complaint information if you click on the contractor licensing link.
To access the state database, via the Florida Department of Business and Professional regulation, click here: http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/.
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