ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — A couple put their trust in a local homebuilder, but was left having to dip into their retirement to stay afloat. Now, the president of a St. Augustine modular home company may soon face criminal charges.
Randy Heath, 62, said he wants what he paid for, a home where could live with his wife, sons and in-laws.
"It basically had everything we wanted including a loft upstairs," Heath said. "They would make a two bedroom, one bath upstairs and three bedroomsDownstairs."
Heath told Action News he paid Better Built Homes a $5,000 five deposit and later opened a $43,000 escrow account for the construction. Soon after, he noticed red flags.
"They set up the footers, which is what they were going to put the house on and then nothing else happened, nothing," Heath said.
Heath isn't alone. In January, Action News reported the details of a police report filed with the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office accusing the same builder of taking another person's cash.
The report lists William Keith Leary as the president of Better Built Homes, INC. Action News checked the states website and found Leary started Better Built Homes Inc., in 2003 and it is still listed as active.
The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation shows that Leary has current but inactive licenses for home inspection and real estate.
Action News found a half-dozen people in two states, who say they too had been scammed.
Joseph Bach, spoke to Action News previously and said, “It's him trying to get as much money before he closes. And from me, he got almost $70,000. ”
Action News tracked Leary for a month. He always avoided our cameras, even when we went to his home in San Mateo. Both of the phone numbers listed were disconnected.
The business used to be located just off State Road 207. But, Leary closed up shop soon after the allegations started to surface and another company took over the space.
Jim Johnson, now works for the new company, but before that, he admits to having worked as a salesman for Better Built Homes. Heath said it was Johnson who took his deposit check, which was made out to Better Built.
A lawsuit filed March 26 names Jim Johnson, William Leary and Better Built Homes. According to the suit, an elderly couple was taken for more than $29,000 and never got their home.
In the last two weeks, Action News learned the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office handed over its investigation of Leary and his company to the St. Attorney's Office.
After hearing all the allegations against Leary, Heath realizes he may never get his $49,000 back.
"For my own peace of mind it would probably be best if I did forgive and forget," said Heath. "I'm hoping to do that at the moment it's still a little too fresh."
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