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Press Office
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 21, 2011
CONTACT: DEP Press Office, (850) 245-2112
  Jennifer Jones, (850) 245-2929

DEP Agents Arrest Owner of Mold Inspection and Remediation Business for Theft by Fraud

~Dozens of individuals and businesses affected by fraud scheme~

ORANGE COUNTY – Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) law enforcement agents, working in conjunction with the Office of the Attorney General’s Statewide Prosecution and the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud, today arrested Thomas P. Costa, 59, owner of Protective Solutions, a mold remediation company in Orlando. Costa is charged with violating provisions of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, a first degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison and/or a fine up to $10,000 or up to three times the amount stolen.

“The deliberate falsification of records and the willful defrauding of unsuspecting citizens and businesses is a crime that we take very seriously,” said DEP Division of Law Enforcement Director Henry Barnet. “The DEP Division of Law Enforcement is committed to protecting the environment and the public by prosecuting those who attempt to use false science and fraud to coerce innocent people into purchasing services that are not needed or never delivered as promised. We encourage Florida residents and visitors to report any suspected environmental crimes by calling (877) 2-SAVE-FL or #DEP from most wireless devices.”

In addition to being charged with violating provisions of the RICO Act, Costa is being charged with:

  • Two counts of second degree Grand Theft, second degree felonies punishable by up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine up to $10,000 per count;
  • Twenty-two counts of third degree Grand Theft, third degree felonies punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine up to $5,000 per count;
  • Fourteen counts of Communications Fraud, third degree felonies punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine up to $5,000 per count;
  • Two counts of Unlawful Acts as a Public Adjuster, third degree felonies punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine up to $5,000 per count; and
  • Four counts of Insurance Fraud, third degree felonies punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine up to $5,000 per count.

Between April 6, 2007 and November 4, 2008, Costa and Protective Solutions received calls from dozens of individuals and businesses regarding possible mold problems at homes, apartment complexes, and businesses in the Orlando, Fort Myers, and West Palm Beach areas. Costa obtained samples that he told his clients would be tested; however, no actual testing took place. Instead, Costa provided fictitious laboratory reports to clients that were extremely technical in nature. Costa then offered assistance in performing ‘remediation’ for the mold problems, which amounted to tearing out walls, carpet, flooring, tile, and cabinets in order to ‘remove’ the mold. During the ‘remediation,’ the mold was not always properly removed, leaving clients and their families with a continuing mold problem and, in many instances, illnesses or related health problems. Subsequent to the ‘remediation,’ clients were financially responsible for all repairs to the affected areas, and many either moved or lost their homes. During this 19-month period, Costa and Protective Solutions received more than $239,000.00 for fraudulent laboratory testing and remediation work.

More than 160 fictitious laboratory reports were allegedly issued by Costa and Protective Solutions between April 6, 2007 and November 4, 2008. More than twenty-nine victims crossing four judicial circuits were affected by this organized scheme to defraud. Costa was transported and booked at the Orange County Jail, and bond was set at $294,000.

DEP’s Division of Law Enforcement is responsible for statewide environmental resource law enforcement, as well as providing law enforcement services to Florida’s state parks and greenways and trails. Division personnel from the three operational bureaus patrol state lands, investigate environmental resource crimes, and respond to natural disasters, civil unrest, hazardous material incidents and oil spills that threaten the environment.

To report an environmental crime, wireless customers can dial #DEP. Callers can also report environmental crimes to the State Warning Point by calling (877) 2-SAVE-FL (1.877.272.8335). General environmental inquiries should be directed to DEP district offices during normal business hours. For more information about DEP’s Division of Law Enforcement, visit www.dep.state.fl.us/law.

Spring

"The deliberate falsification of records and the willful defrauding of unsuspecting citizens and businesses is a crime that we take very seriously"

Henry Barnet
DEP Division of Law Enforcement Director

–30–

11–03

Last updated: February 22, 2011

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