Almost five years after M.W. and his roofing companies had completed their roofing work following the destructive 2004 hurricane season, he learned that a pair of warrants were pending against him out of Indian River County, Florida. M.W. was residing in a state in the mid-west, about to finalize a substantial business transaction, when a “due diligence” background check revealed the pending warrants. Time was of the essence. Not only was M.W.’s liberty at stake, but an important business deal.
On December 22, 2009, M.W. retained Jeffrey H. Garland, through his attorneys representing him in the business transaction. Although the Christmas and New Year holidays were in full swing, Attorney Garland went to work.
Attorney Garland requested numerous documents connected with M.W.’s roofing company operating in Florida during this period of time. These records were notable in documenting hundreds of completed roof jobs. In the context of construction fraud cases, the existence of numerous completed jobs, and satisfied customers, indicates an underlying legitimacy in the business operation.
Further examination of the documents showed that the contracts for the roofing company initially followed the “track” of Hurricane Charlie. The earliest contracts were in the immediate Orlando area, then spreading out toward Daytona on the north and Lake Wales – Lakeland on the south. As time went by, salesmen “spread out” to areas further away which were impacted by other storms.
M.W.’s company had come to Florida specifically to repair and replace storm damaged roofs. Many of the employees were from other states with little-to-no “local knowledge”. In the construction industry, local knowledge is useful in many ways. Local contacts can facilitate obtaining building permits and inspections and identify qualified workers. Most importantly, local knowledge would focus salesmen on specific areas so that work would be concentrated.
In the construction business, especially in a storm damaged environment, the “clustering” of jobs was an important goal. By clustering jobs, a company can minimize permitting and inspection problems, as well as travel time. Attorney Garland immediately recognized that problems arose when the company’s salespeople branched out to areas beyond the Hurricane Charlie track.
M.W. realized, in 2005 – 2006, that the distant and spread out contracts were not financially viable. His company refunded numerous contracts which could not be completed profitably.
After obtaining this financial documentation, Attorney Garland contacted the detective involved in the pair of Vero Beach warrants. The detective was aware that M.W. had no prior criminal history. He was unaware, however, of the larger picture. The detective believed that the pair of victims might be satisfied by receiving refunds – better late than never.
Attorney Garland arranged to receive funds sufficient to pay the refunds plus ten percent. He contacted the pair of elderly victims, both of whom were very helpful. The victims seemed to understand the difficulties facing storm repair businesses. They were happy to receive their refunds plus ten percent. The refunds were paid unconditionally and with no requirement that the grand theft warrants be dropped.
Attorney Garland was in contact with the Indian River County State Attorney’s Office about these victim contacts. The State Attorney’s Office would consider the refunds as a change in circumstance, but would not be bound to drop the charges just because refunds were made.
After proof of the refunds was sent to the State Attorney’s Office, as well as documentation of the hundreds of completed jobs, the State elected to drop both warrants. The State filed the motion to dismiss the warrants on January 14, 2010. The Order dismissing the warrants was signed on January 19, 2010.
The entire criminal matter was resolved in just 28 days. Not all cases can be resolved so quickly and with such good results. It is important to remember that proof of good business records and good business practices will go a long way toward resolving misunderstandings. In this case, the contracts of the two Vero Beach homeowners had been overlooked. Their deposits were never refunded to them – although dozens of others were refunded.
The pending criminal warrants having been resolved, M.W. was able to close his business deal.