Marc Anthony Perez, the unlicensed contractor who faked his death last summer to avoid paying a couple back for incomplete work, reached a confidential settlement to end a lawsuit that accused him of stealing more than $20,000.
But Perez now faces criminal charges.
The lawsuit made headlines in June 2017 after Perez faked his death to get out of paying Glenn and Judith Holland back for a botched renovation at the couple’s Seminole home. The failed renovation left Holland and his cancer-stricken wife with nowhere to live after they moved from Pennsylvania.
Daniel Moody, the Hollands’ attorney, could not disclose the settlement details. But he said the ordeal ruined the last year of Judith Holland’s life as she battled cancer. She died before the agreement was reached this year.
“It was really a sad situation,” Moody said. “Mr. Holland could not bear to spend any time in the house. He was selling it and moving back home.”
In March 2018, prosecutors charged Perez with felonies for grand theft and working without insurance and four misdemeanors for unlicensed contracting. He was arraigned in June and is scheduled for a pretrial hearing on Aug. 16, records show.
The saga started in March 2016 after the Hollands paid $125,000 for an 845 square-foot home in the 55-and-older community of Tamarac by the Gulf. The couple expected a smooth transition to the Sunshine State. But the home needed a new kitchen, a remodeled bathroom, duct repairs, a new hot water heater and other repairs.
They hired Perez to do the work while they returned to Pennsylvania. They spotted him working in the neighborhood and asked to view his projects. Neighbors praised the quality of Perez’s workmanship. The couple met Perez to talk about hiring him.
Glenn Holland noticed Perez identified himself as a veteran on his business card and thought: A veteran would never rip off another veteran. Perez, 53, said he had the proper licenses to do the job, according to Glenn Holland. But Perez was in fact not a licensed contractor.
The couple signed a contract with Marc Anthony’s Repair Service. They expected the work to be done within three months.
Perez sent the couple receipts and said he was almost finished with the job. The Hollands paid him thousands of dollars.
But Judith Holland visited in July 2016 and didn’t see much work done. Perez made excuses, the lawsuit said. He vowed to get back on schedule.
The Hollands visited in October 2016. What they saw devastated them. The kitchen still wasn’t done. That same month, the couple was dealing with something far more serious: Judith Holland was diagnosed with cancer.
Perez vowed to finish the job by mid-December. The couple wanted to move into the home that month, but they found it in shambles and rented another house.
When they contacted Perez, they received text messages saying the contractor died in a car accident.
Months later, the couple was stunned when they thought they spotted Perez at his home.
Glenn Holland spent weeks staking out Perez’s house. Then one morning in March 2017, the dead man walked outside and jumped into the truck. The couple filed a lawsuit instead of confronting Perez.
That lawsuit came at a time when the Pinellas County Construction Licensing was under scrutiny in a Tampa Bay Times’ investigative series for failing to protect homeowners from unlicensed contractors.
Month later, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office started investigating complaints and arrested dozens of unlicensed violators. The Florida Legislature also passed a new law to abolish the agency’s independence. It moved under the County Commission this month.
The lawsuit and licensing board failures exposed the depth of what unlicensed contractors will do to rip off unsuspecting homeowners.
Robert Eckard, a former prosecutor and Perez’s criminal attorney, said his client made “full restitution” for the botched renovation. Eckard is hopeful that Perez will reach a plea deal with prosecutors. Now, Eckard said he sees prosecutors file more felony charges when homeowners get ripped off.
“This case set the tone for much harsher consequences for unlicensed contractors” Eckard said.