Business owner left with unopened cigar lounge after being scammed out of $26,000

A Westside business owner is accusing an electric company of taking his money without completing the job.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Westside business owner is accusing an electric company of taking his money without completing the job.

Andrew Messiana was supposed to open a cigar lounge called Tobacco Galore at least nine months ago, but his plans were involuntarily put on a hiatus when Covenant Electric did not finish the service.

Messiana said he brought a 70-year-old building near the corner of Normandy and Lenox avenues to flip it into an upscale cigar lounge. He said he hired an architect who came up with the designs, and then he hired licensed electrician Leroy Bass, owner of Covenant Electric -- based on a referral from a friend.

Bass was supposed to install the new electrical system to bring the building up to code, which is required before Messiana could open for business. He paid the company $26,000.

Messiana said Bass started the job in October 2021, but on Nov. 12, 2021, the electrician told him he had other jobs that need to be completed, so he stopped working on the cigar lounge and told Messiana he would have his assistant get back with him.

Messiana said since then, Bass had not shown up to do work until Aug. 29 of this year. Then, he was told it would be another four weeks of work to get everything electrical up to code.

“Over a three-week period, he asked for more money. I was trying to figure out why,” Messiana said.

Then, Messiana said about five weeks ago, Bass came back and only installed a meter.

“[He] left everything outside and drove off and that was the last I saw of him,” Messiana said. “He doesn’t answer my phone calls. He doesn’t answer my texts anymore.”

Messiana said he feels like he’s been scammed by Bass.

According to the Better Business Bureau, Covenant Electric has been on its radar. Prior to this incident, two complaints were filed against the company. The most recent complaint was when a homeowner complained about not being able to pass a city inspection after work on an electrical system began in 2020 but was never completed.

According to the Florida Department of Business and Regulation, multiple complaints dating back to 2010 were filed against the electric company and its owner, Bass.

Tom Stephens with the BBB explained the best way to avoid these problems.

“Do your homework outside of those referrals. Google the company’s name with the word ‘scam’ or ‘review’ behind it and you will see if anything has happened; It will be on the web somewhere,” Stephens said.

Stephens also suggested going online to see if the contractor is licensed and checking to see if the license is current. In addition, Stephen said to contact more than one contractor to get an idea of which one is the right fit for the project.

News4JAX spoke to Bass, and he denied any wrongdoing.

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