PASCO COUNTY, Florida - Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on you. But try to fool 10 Connects viewers a third time, and the law may just catch up with you, Nick Stanko.
A Spring Hill man accused of ripping off senior citizens for more than a year is searching for new customers, despite a promise to 10 Connects in September that he was retiring from the driveway repaving business.
Dozens of seniors from Pasco, Hernando, Citrus, and Lake counties have filed complaints against Stanko, alleging he uses high-pressure tactics and inferior work to rip off thousands of dollars at a time. He promises a 10-year guarantee, but in most of the complaints, homeowners say the "cheap" paint he uses starts to peel in a matter of weeks.
10 Connects first investigated Stanko in February 2009 after a group of Hernando County residents complained that he wouldn't return their calls or honor his guarantee.
Then, when confronted again in September 2009, Stanko said health was forcing him to quit his business and he'd take care of the people who were unhappy.
But a new year brought more complaints. New Port Richey resident Jan Poole said in the first week of January 2010, she agreed to Stanko's pitch and gave him $750. She paid cash because he allegedly told her "it would be better for both of us." When she inspected the work later that day, she says its shoddy nature prevented her from sleeping for three nights. She called Stanko dozens of times, but when he didn't answer, she finally looked him on the internet and found the previous stories on 10connects.com.
"He's not truthful, he doesn't tell you the truth about anything, he's going after the elderly people and he is making money," Poole said.
So 10 Connects went back to Stanko's Spring Hill home and asked why he was out doing work again. But he said he wasn't taking new work and "couldn't remember" the last time he earned any income.
When asked about Poole's job the previous week, Stanko said he wasn't in New Port Richey and maybe his son or his brother were using his name.
However, when Poole called Stanko back - without him knowing 10 Connects was there - he apologized and said he'd come talk to her again (with his son). When 10 Connects appeared and asked why he lied, he became combative (watch video on top right) and said if people want him to honor his guarantee, they should call his cell phone at 352-875-5385. His angry customers say it's hopeless.
Despite several dozen victims coming forward and filing complaints over the course of a year, the only official action taken against Stanko is a $100 Citrus Co. code violation for advertising a fake license.
Because painting driveways doesn't require anything more than an occupational license, most authorities have said they haven't been able to do much.
But State Senator Mike Fasano (R-New Port Richey) is urging someone to take action.
"Our senior citizens are being taken advantage of," he said.
Fasano wrote a letter to a number of authorities, saying Stanko is "in violation of Florida Laws protecting our elderly and needs to be stopped."
"Channel 10... did a follow-up story on him in September 2009 after warning people seven months earlier against his unethical and possible illegal tactics," Fasano wrote. "It is my understanding that Mr. Stanko is still in business and is still taking advantage of our elderly residents even after all the complaints and media exposure. This is unconscionable! I really do not know how much more information is needed to demonstrate that Mr. Stanko is in violation of Florida laws protecting our elderly and needs to be stopped."
He'll be sending it to Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, Secretary of the Department of Elder Affairs Douglas Beach, Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson, State Attorney Bernie McCabe, State Attorney Brad King, Pasco County Sheriff Bob White, Hernando County Sheriff Rich Nugent, and Citrus County Sheriff Jeff Dawsy.
The letter implores them to "take immediate action to get this (Stanko) off the streets."
"I'm hoping that, when it's all over and said and done," Fasano tells 10 Connects, "that (Stanko) will have stopped what he's doing (and) that he's being prosecuted for what he has done."
He continued to say that if there aren't laws on the books to stop this kind of practice, he'll help create one.
If you're unhappy with work performed by Nick Stanko Paving, you should file complaints with:
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Noah Pransky, 10 Connects