A Florida company accused of gouging homeowners on repairs of damages caused by last year’s hurricanes has agreed to pay $200,000 in restitution and cease business operations in the state.
Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist said today that Fort Walton, Fla.-based Garner Construction LLC settled with his office in the wake of an investigation into possible price gouging.
Garner, a construction remodeling company, was alleged to have overcharged consumers for water mitigation and minor home repairs in the wake of the hurricanes that battered the state last year.
Documents obtained through an investigative subpoena issued by the Attorney General’s Office showed that Garner performed repairs on the personal property of 61 individuals and one assisted-living facility, Crist said. The assisted-living facility, Villas of Gulf Breeze, was wrongly billed approximately $54,000 for water removal, demolition and cleanup, Crist alleged.
According to a statement by Crist, Garner charged the assisted-living facility for use of a crane that was allegedly never on the property. Under the terms of the settlement, the facility will only pay $18,000 for the actual work performed, Crist said.
Under the settlement, Garner agreed to reduce its billings by a total of $203,658, a 22 percent cut from what the company original billed for the repair work, Crist said.
“Florida citizens suffered serious losses during last year’s hurricanes and the last thing they needed were repair companies trying to bleed them for excess profits,” said Crist in a statement. “This settlement agreement should remind all Floridians that we will not tolerate profiteering.”
In addition, Garner will also shut down all business operations in Florida and none of its out-of-state sister companies will perform any hurricane-related repairs in Florida for five years, according to Crist’s office. The company will also reimburse the taxpayers $10,000 to cover the costs of the Attorney General’s investigation, Crist said.
During last year’s record-setting hurricane season, the Attorney General’s Office received 8,911 complaints through its price gouging hotline. The office initiated 58 formal investigations and filed 13 price-gouging lawsuits against hotels, generator businesses, tree removal companies and other businesses. Including the Garner settlement, to date the Attorney General’s Office has recovered more than $700,000 in restitution for Florida consumers, Crist’s office said.
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