MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – During a Miami-Dade police economic crimes bureau undercover operation, Local 10 News investigative reporter Christina Vazquez ran into a man she has reported on before.
He was still up to his old tricks, but this time instead of pitching homeowners, he was talking to undercover detectives.
John Paulisin of South Florida Energy Savers was one of 12 people netted in the two-day undercover operation targeting unlicensed contractors.
Kim Delisser of Cutler Bay told Local 10 News that Paulisin left her on the hook for a more than $17,000 loan related to a solar panel installation job that he never started.
Vazquez worked with that finance company on Delisser's behalf to secure a refund.
The Call Christina investigation into South Florida Energy Savers uncovered Paulisin was not licensed to install solar panels, and that he has racked up complaints with both state and county regulators.
One woman in Miami told Miami-Dade County's Contractor Investigation Section that Paulisin fraudulently took $25,000 from a finance company related to a solar pool heater job that he never even started.
Even after failing to resolve past complaints; even after failing to pay a $1,000 fine imposed by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation; even after DBPR had ordered Paulisin to cease and desist because he was advertising and installing solar panels without the proper license; Paulisin answered the call for repairs from undercover detectives posing as homeowners, telling them he is a certified contractor.
According to the state, there is not an ounce of truth to that statement.
"There is no evidence John Paulisin ever had a current or active license as a contractor in the state of Florida," Margarita Trakalanova, an unlicensed activity analyst for the state of Florida, wrote in a DBPR "certificate of non-licensure."
After his arrest, Paulisin agreed to speak with Local 10 News.
"Do you not recognize that perhaps you are not doing things correctly?" Vazquez asked him.
"As I told you, that's why I am trying to do things correctly," Paulisin said. "The only thing I told them was I can call Ygrene and get them more money than $11,000. That's the only thing I told him."
Paulisin said he told detectives he could secure them money through Ygrene.
That would not be possible according to a Ygrene representative who told Local 10 News that the financing company hasn't done business with Paulisin for over a year.
In fact, Ygrene told Local 10 News that the company has built-in protections in place for homeowners by not releasing money until a job has been completed following proper licensing and permitting regulations.
"In regards to what we are doing now, we are doing everything 100 percent legal," Paulisin said.
"We had a previous complaint on him," Lt. Efren Lopez said. "We go with the evidence and the facts that we have. We do have him on these two criminal charges and he will be charged accordingly. It's two misdemeanor counts at this time with perhaps further charges pending. He will be waiting to go to court in the next 30-45 days."
Paulisin continues to blame former co-workers for the mounting complaints, even though by his own admission, they are long gone.
He also cites health concerns.
"In the past 18 months I have been in the hospital almost 130 days," Paulisin said. "Do you know what it is like to be in the hospital for 130 days? I am asking you a question."
"I don't and I wish you the very best and a speedy recovery, but at the end of the day, it doesn't exonerate someone from violating the law," Vazquez said.
"I didn't do any of those stuff. I never did anything wrong. It is these other people," Pauilisin said.
Vazquez began digging into unlicensed activity complaints others had filed against Paulisin with county and state regulators and discovered the license number on Paulisin's business card wasn't his.
Andrew Cantatore holds two CFC licenses qualifying The Construction Guys Inc. and F.A.M. Plumbing LLC. According to department records, the business South Florida Energy Savers does not have a qualifier listed.
Over the phone, Cantatore said he didn't know Paulisin was using his license number on marketing material.
Paulisin's name also appears on state records under a company called Green Solar Energy Solutions, Inc. -- a corporation filed with the state just this past April.
Paulisin does not have a certified solar contractor license, which is required to by the state to install solar panels.
"You told them you are a certified contractor, (but) you are not a certified contractor," Vazquez said.
"I am a certified contractor," Paulisin said.
"To install solar panels? You have a certified solar contractor's license?" Vazquez asked.
"I work under a qualifier," Paulisin said.
"And who's that qualifier?" Vazquez asked.
"I have two of them," Paulisin said.
"Andrew? Is that who you are referring to? And FAM Plumbing?" Vazquez said.
"No, no, no," Paulisin said.
"Who is your qualifier then?" Vazquez said.
"Winthrop," Paulisin said.
That didn't ring true, either.
Chelsea Eagle, deputy director of communications for the DBPR, told Local 10 News that while state records show Robert Winthrop qualified Winthrop Electric Company, DBA Green Solar Energy Solutions, from Dec. 2, 2014 to May 6, 2015, "…at this time, Robert Winthrop does not qualify Green Solar Energy Solutions. According to department records, there are no applications on file for John Paulisin with the Electrical Contractors' Licensing Board. John Paulisin did not respond to the Administrative Complaint, and case number 2014032854 has been placed in ‘Ready for Default' status, meaning the case is ready for a Final Order. The $1,000 fine was not paid as of Aug. 29, 2015 and the case was placed in ‘Sent to Collections Agency' status."
Robert Winthrop qualifies Winthrop Electric Company. Details for this licensee are available at www.myfloridalicense.com.
What is more, Vazquez learned that in September 2013, responding to complaints, the DBPR issued Paulisin a cease and desist notice because he was advertising and installing solar panels without the proper license.
Based on Delisser's contract date and supporting documents, that would mean Paulisin took on the Delisser job after the state had already told him to stop.
When Vazquez presented the DBPR documents to Delisser she was stunned.
"We had no, no knowledge of this," she said. "It's absurd that somebody can go around and do business like this and draw money and get away with it."
Miami-Dade County has cited him on one case of working without a license and are actively investigating two filed complaints.
In that closed case, Miriam Rossi, the administrative officer for the Miami-Dade County Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources, explained in an email, "The contractor enforcement investigator issued a citation to John Paulisin d/b/a South Florida Energy Savers, for acting as a licensed contractor yet being unlicensed. This was a pro-active case and not a homeowner complaint. The citation was paid and the case was closed."
When Vazquez played the video of Paulisin's arrest to Delisser she stated she was "surprised" that he was responding to new jobs. She hopes his arrest will "deter" him and told Local 10 News that he needs to take responsibility for his actions.
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