ESCAMBIA COUNTY, Fla. (WKRG) — With several Northwest Florida residents waiting on restitution from Banks Construction and LaCoste Construction, restitution that may never come, there is a fund in Florida that could help them out.

In the past week, two contractors in Northwest Florida, Matthew Banks and Jesse LaCoste, have come under fire for taking money for projects and not completing them.

For Banks, he has lost his contractor’s license in Santa Rosa County and Escambia County, has filed bankruptcy and was arrested on Wednesday evening. Banks was ordered to pay thousands of dollars in restitution. For LaCoste, his contractors license was also revoked by Santa Rosa and Escambia Counties and also has to pay restitution.

“We are deeply grateful to the Santa Rosa County Attorney and Board for their swift action to protect the citizens of our County by permanently revoking Matt Banks’ contractor’s license,” said Jennifer Anderson, who said she was one of Banks’ victims. “We are hopeful that the message is loud and clear to Mr. Banks and any other contractor that doesn’t operate within the Statues that the citizens and County representatives will ensure they are held accountable for their actions.”

Escambia County Commission Chairman Jeff Bergosh said he was astounded when he first heard of the complaints.

“I had heard similar claims from different contractors, but I’ll be honest, I would never give somebody that much money down. No way,” said Bergosh.

“I talked with some people, and they’ve said that some contractors nowadays require that. I would say don’t use that contractor. If you give them that much leverage, they are never going to finish the job. I was surprised he was able to go so long.”

With several victims waiting for money that was taken from them and with Banks filing for bankruptcy, Bergosh said there is an option out there for them to get a little money faster.

“No one is reporting that there is another recourse for some of these victims,” Bergosh said. “It hasn’t been in the newspaper, or on Channel 3. So, I put it on my blog and people are saying they didn’t know about it.”

Florida Homeowners Construction Recovery Fund

The Florida Homeowners Construction Recovery Fund is part of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. According to the claim form, the sole purpose of the fund is to compensate an aggrieved claimant who contracted for the construction or improvement of a residence located within the state of Florida.

How can residents qualify?

  • Claimants who obtain a final judgment in any court of competent jurisdiction
  • Is awarded restitution by the Construction Industry Licensing Board
  • Receives an award in arbitration against a licensee, on grounds of financial mismanagement or misconduct, abandoning a construction project or making a false statement with respect to a project, arising directly out of any transaction when the contractor was licensed and engaged in any way of the activities enumerated under s. 489.129(1)(g), (j) or (k), on the homeowner’s residence.  

“For a lot of these folks, if they have to wait for bankruptcy proceedings, they are never going to get their money back,” said Bergosh. “It’s just horrible what they are going through. I think not reporting about this option is doing the people a disservice. Tell people the facts.”

Though the Contractor Competency Board does not take direct orders from the Board of Commissioners, Bergosh said he hopes they can figure out a way that an issue like this doesn’t happen again.

“We appoint who’s on the board, and we have a staff member and staff attorney that helps direct them, but that’s the extent of it,” said Bergosh. “It is a board that we put together, but day-to-day, we don’t manage it. I think going forward, the first time somebody brings up something so blatantly, like a victim saying they gave a check, and no work was done after six months, eight months or even a year, and no work was done, their license needs to be suspended. No new permits, no new jobs. It may not stop them from getting jobs elsewhere, but it at least stops them here until they get that first one right. That way, we don’t have a guy that racks up 12 jobs or more like this guy.”

For more information on the Florida Homeowner’s Construction Recovery Fund, and to access the claim form, click here.   

Stay ahead of the biggest stories, breaking news and weather in Mobile, Pensacola and across the Gulf Coast and Alabama. Download the WKRG News 5 news app and be sure to turn on push alerts.