JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two Jacksonville men are accused of trying to scam more than $700,000 from homeowners and businesses, according to records obtained by the News4JAX I-TEAM.
Steven Ford and Lawrence Gilmore IV were arrested late last week on charges that include organized fraud and workers’ compensation insurance fraud. Ford is also accused of passing himself off as a licensed contractor.
As of Wednesday, Ford was still being held in the Duval County jail on $100,000 bond. Gilmore bonded out Friday night.
According to an affidavit, the organized scheme to defraud people began in September of last year. The court document lists 14 victims, but the warrant says additional victims are still being discovered.
News4JAX spoke with one of them — Elana Fields. She and her daughter bought a house last August where she would retire and her grandchildren would grow up. But it needed work, including a new driveway.
“You can’t drive over it,” Fields.
They also planned to add a suite to the home for Fields.
“I still wanted my own space,” she said.
In December, they signed a contract with Ford Contracting LLC for $78,173 for renovations upon the suggestion of a real estate agent who Fields knew.
“I just assumed that, like I said, that LLC after his name, that he was licensed,” Fields said.
Investigators said she paid $23,000, but that to this day, no permits were obtained, no work was done, and Ford has not responded to texts or phone calls.
“I said well that guy is out and out lying to me so something is wrong here,” Fields said.
According to investigators, Ford and Gilmore of Ford Contracting had fraudulent contracts with customers for more than $700,000. In the affidavit, the detective on the case writes that Ford would sometimes collect a 50% deposit but never get the building permits or start the work — like at Fields’ house. Other times, according to investigators, Ford and Gilmore would get building permits by using the forged signature of a local contractor who was licensed and then abandon the job in the early stages.
No one answered when the I-TEAM tried to call Ford Contracting. We got a message saying, “The number you dialed is not a working number.”
Florida records show Fore Contracting is registered to an address in the Holiday Hill area on the Southside. No one answered the door, and the office looked abandoned when the I-TEAM paid a visit Wednesday. Workers at nearby businesses said people had been living there until officers evicted them on Friday — the same day Ford was arrested.
People like Fields are now out tens of thousands of dollars — or with home renovations left in disarray or not begun at all.
“We’re going to have to find a contractor,” Fields said. “I will be sure to check the licenses and all that.”
Investigators also said Ford and Gilmore violated Florida by did not obtaining workers’ compensation insurance coverage for a salaried employee and other non-exempt subcontractors, leading to one of the charges against them.
Both Ford and Gilmore have court dates set for next month.