JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A local contractor is being called out by those who hired him, saying they were duped out of thousands of dollars for jobs that never got done.
"It is just a sad story that this guy can continue to get away with this in our community and screw over the people that are hard-working citizens," homeowner James Fyfe said.
Fyfe hired George Vink to do concrete work at his home, and he said Vink didn't hold up his end of the deal. Now, Vink's charged with grand theft in three separate cases after his clients said he owes them thousands.
One man said Vink owes him $8,000; Fyfe said he's out $3,000. Both said this has been going on since December and enough is enough.
Fyfe's backyard, which used to be all woods and weeds, is now completed thanks to another contractor. But he said Vink, the man he hired first, left it nowhere near done.
"He said he would come with a crew, which he did the following day and said he needed half the money upfront," Fyfe said. "So he did start the work. It looks like it was going to be a legitimate job and he came and did some minor framework."
Fyfe said it only took a few hours but cost him $3,000. He has been fighting for his money back for nearly six months and hasn't seen a penny.
"It was excuse after excuse," Fyfe said. "Either the weather was bad or I'm sick or I just can't make it today or the concrete company didn't have any concrete that day. And it started to get to the point where I knew something was up and that the job was not never going to get done.
"After I figured out he couldn't get the job done, that he couldn't get the concrete, I said, 'Listen, just give me my money back and, you know, we are good.' That would have been it," Fyfe said.
He told police, who arrested Vink, charging him with grand theft. Another man who hired Vink did the same thing, claiming his $16,000 backyard project was left undone and the 50-percent deposit gone.
Vink spoke at his home Monday.
"OK, I have been sick. I have brain surgery," Vink said. "I just got home now from Mayo Clinic. Because of the prescription drugs they are giving me, I am going blind. You can check that out if you like. I owe him (Fyfe) $3,000. He is getting paid.
"Mr. (Richard) Boatright is taken care of," Vink added. "I don't owe him $8,000 at all. He gave me an $8,000 deposit. The house was laid out, the footers were done, poured and the stem wall is up except for one side where the dirt has got to come into. Labor has been paid and the materials have been paid. That's $11,000 out of my pocket and he only gave $8,000. So how do you figure that?"
Vink admitted he's behind but said his clients kept changing their mind about what they wanted and he did nothing criminal and he has the records to prove it.
So why does Vink think the State Attorney's Office is filing charges against him in two separate cases?
"Because Mr. Boatright, like I said earlier, he is a private investigator. He is lying and saying that it wasn't paid," Vink said. "I don't give a (expletive) what he showed you. I'm telling you the god's honest truth."
Vink's attorney has not returned a call for comment.
Boatright, who just had a double lung transplant, said he had his hopes on building his dream home in Jacksonville while receiving treatment at the Mayo Clinic. He said Vick over promised and under delivered.
"I have a lien against my property by my concrete company because George didn't pay a dime," said Boatright, 62.
He said he gave Vink $8,000 to complete concrete work, but it wasn't long before red flags started popping up.
He said a subcontractor Vink hired without his knowledge came to him saying he hadn't been paid. Boatright said Vink was supposed to do the work himself and not hire subcontractors.
"For what George did to us, he should spend time in jail," Boatright said.
The people who said Vink scammed them want to make sure no one else falls into their category. They said homeowners should ask for references and never pay any money up front.
Shannon Nelson with the Better Business Bureau said it's important to ask for license numbers before you hand over any cash.
"Do your due diligence and contact the licensing agency, contact the insurance company and make sure they have that information on file," Nelson said.
She said other things to be wary of include door-to-door solicitations, requests to be paid upfront, and requests that you make payments to a personal name — instead of a company name — or to make payments in cash.
Vink said he working on paying back the money he owes, but when he was arrested he had a $180,000 bond, so he had to pay $18,000 to get out of jail. He also said he did pay the State Attorney's Office some of the money to give back to one of his clients.
Court records show there are civil lawsuits that have been filed against Vink in prior years for unpaid debts. He was prosecuted several times on charges of issuing bad checks and was convicted once on a felony bad check charge.
Department of Business and Professional Regulation background
According to Department of Business and Professional Regulation records, Vink does not possess a state-issued license through DBPR. Officals said concrete work generally does not require a state-issued license. There are several instances, however, that require a license through DBPR.
For example, if a contractor is pouring concrete for the foundation of a house, building or swimming pool, a state-issued license is required on-site. If a contractor is pouring concrete for a driveway or other similar concrete surface, a state-issued license is generally not required.
The following construction industry categories are licensed by DBPR:
- Air Conditioning Service
- Class A Air Conditioning
- Class B Air Conditioning
- Commercial Pool/Spa
- Internal Pollutant StorageTank Lining Applicator
- Pollutant Storage Systems
- Precision Tank Tester
- Residential Pool/Spa
- Sheet Metal
- Specialty: Drywall
- Specialty: Demolition
- Specialty: Gas Line
- Specialty: Glass and glazing
- Specialty: Irrigation
- Specialty: Marine
- Specialty: Solar water heating
- Specialty: Structure
- Specialty: Swimming pool decking
- Specialty: Swimming pool excavation
- Specialty: Swimming pool finishes
- Specialty: Swimming pool layout
- Specialty: Swimming pool piping
- Specialty: Swimming pool structural
- Specialty: Swimming pool trim
- Specialty: Tower
- Swimming pool/Spa service
- Underground utility and excavation
DBPR also licenses individuals who are known as qualifiers. A qualifier "qualifies" a company to perform a certain service, and that qualifier can have several employees under them who are not licensed through DBPR as long as they are supervised by the qualifier. For background, a contractor does not have to own the businesses he or she is applying to qualify, however, the contractor must have supervisory authority and must have final approval authority for all of the construction affairs of the business.
Consumers can take the following proactive steps to protect themselves when researching contractors to hire:
- Ask for a second opinion. By asking for a second opinion, you can verify that the first estimate or assessment by a contractor does not contradict.
- Ask for a formal quote and estimate. Do not commit to a contract or pay on the spot. Do not make a payment on the spot or provide personal or financial information. Oftentimes, scams are committed by individuals who pressure consumers to make a decision on the spot by greatly reducing the price. Be attentive to these high-pressure sales tactics and make informed decisions.
- Ask the individual for their license number. The license number must also appear on all advertising for the business.
- Consumers should always verify professional licenses by calling the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation at 850-487-1395, visiting the website at www.myfloridalicense.com or using the DBPR Mobile app.
DBPR said takes unlicensed activity very seriously because it threatens the livelihood of Florida's consumers as well as takes away business from licensed professionals throughout the state. Providing or offering to provide services that require a license without a state-issued license through DBPR is against the law, and DBPR encourages consumers to report unlicensed activity. If a consumer suspects they are a victim of unlicensed activity, they can report it via email to ULA@myfloridalicense.com, over the phone by calling the DBPR Unlicensed Activity Hotline at 866-532-1440 or through the DBPR Mobile app.