Homeowners say they’re struggling to hold contractors accountable after losing thousands in deposits.
Robert Ligouri pressed charges against the owner of a custom window treatment company. A year later, he is still waiting for the case to go to trial.
“This process doesn’t work, this process needs to be looked at and looked at closely,” Ligouri said.
NBC 6 Responds first spoke with Ligouri in February 2021. He told us he handed over a $8,000 deposit to Mark Block but he says Block never returned to start the project.
In 2019, NBC 6 Responds spoke with three homeowners who told us they also handed over deposits to Block and were left with unfinished projects.
Block has been arrested three times since our 2019 investigation aired following similar allegations. Each time, his bond was set at $1,000 and he posted bond within a day of each arrest.
Court records show Block was out on bond, facing grand theft charges, when he was accused of taking money from Ligouri and another homeowner in Coral Springs.
Responding to every consumer complaint
According to a police report, the Coral Springs homeowner told police Block “was not answering the phone or returning his calls” after paying Block $1,975 to purchase materials.
Two months later, Block was arrested in Ligouri’s case and released on bond again.
In September 2021, another homeowner accused Block of taking $6,200 for a project in Boynton Beach and not doing the work. He is not facing charges in this case.
In October 2021, prosecutors asked the judge to revoke Block’s bond to “protect the community from further criminal activity” but that request was denied.
“These guys are back out on the street, doing it again and again,” Ligouri said.
A 2019 Florida criminal reform statute, HB 7125, added protection for homeowners. The reform placed a 90-day time requirement for contractors to begin work after taking a deposit. It also made it easier for homeowners to file criminal charges against contractors who take more than a 10% deposit and do not return to do the work.
“I think we could have a civil statute with tighter guidelines. For criminal liability, we really want to make sure someone has done something really egregious,” said State Rep. Mike Beltran (R-Valrico), who supported the bill.
As a civil attorney, Rep. Beltran said he has represented homeowners in cases of contractor fraud. He called the bill a good step but acknowledged the law’s limitations in stopping repeat offenders.
“Prosecutors have a lot of things to do, and hopefully they are focused on violent crime,” Rep. Beltran said, adding “the prosecutors may not be prioritizing this to the extent that we need in order to achieve adequate consumer protection.”
Despite repeated delays in the criminal cases, Ligouri told NBC 6 he will not stop until Block is behind bars.
“I will follow it through to make sure justice is served,” Ligouri said.
Block is facing felony theft charges in four cases, including Ligouri’s case. He pleaded not guilty in each case and is awaiting trial.
When we reached out to Block, he referred us to his new attorney, who has not provided a comment yet.
NBC 6 also reached out to the Broward State Attorney’s Office and the judge in the cases but neither provided a comment because the cases are pending.