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Illinois woman guilty of grand theft from Marco Island woman

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MARCO ISLAND

An Illinois woman has been found guilty of grand theft from a person 65 years or older after taking money from a Marco Island woman for interior design work that was never done.

According to the State Attorney’s Office, Pamela Lynn Vandeursen-Thime, 58, of Elgin, Illinois represented herself as an interior designer from Chicago. They say she met with a Marco Island woman and the two agreed that Vandeursen-Thime would renovate two of the victim’s bathrooms.

Over the course of two and a half months in 2018, Vandeursen-Thime charged the Marco Island woman $77,500. The State Attorney’s Office says Vandeursen-Thime never did any work, apply for any permits to order any materials. They say she also falsely claimed to be working under a licensed contractor.

Marco Island police learned of the theft after the victim told her daughter what was going on and her daughter called the police. Vandeursen-Thime was arrested in Illinois following an investigation and extradited to Collier County for trial.

A date for sentencing has not been set.

If you want to know what to look out for when hiring a contractor, there are a number of things you can do to verify their integrity.

First and foremost, not all home jobs are created equal. Some might only require a person to have a local license, others a state license. You can find out which by calling your county building department.

One example: Hurricane shutter work can be a local license; whereas, a roofer needs a state contracting license.

Next, make sure the business is registered on Sunbiz.org, and ask for proof that they’re insured. But don’t stop there. Call the insurance company to make sure it’s active.

To look up local lawsuits or small claims court, go to the county clerk of court website and search both the business name and its owner.

Last but not least, there are three places you should check for complaints, the Better Business Bureau, your county code enforcement or building department, and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

HOW TO CHECK A BACKGROUND

Before hiring a contractor, consumers should verify the contractor is both registered and licensed. Closed contractor complaints with the DBPR are posted with the license information.

The county clerk’s website will post lawsuits, small claims cases and charges.

Contractor complaints can also be filed at various levels.

At the state level, consumers can report issues to the State Attorney General and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

The DBPR says local jurisdictions also have disciplinary authority over state registered contractors per s.489.131(7), Florida Statutes. In addition, local jurisdictions have disciplinary authority to suspend the permits and permitting privileges of certified contractors for willful code violations and fraud per s.489.113(4), Florida Statutes.

Law enforcement agencies may also have an economic crimes unit where consumers can report concerns.

Clients who lose money may also apply for the state recovery fund. In 2017-2018, The Department of Business and Professional Regulation received 139 claims. Of that number, 77 of those claims were eligible. Of the eligible claims, 44 of them were awarded money and the average claim payout was $35,660.85. The Florida Legislature appropriated $5.5 million which was available for consumers during the 2017-18 fiscal year. The amount varies from year to year depending on how much the legislature decides to appropriate.


Copyright 2022 Fort Myers Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without prior written consent.



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