SPRING HILL, Fla. - A young Hernando County man has developed quite a reputation on the internet and not a good one.
Google the name " Joe Dono ," and one of the most frequent words to come up is just about every variation of scam: Scammer, Scam Artist, Scammed, and more.
In five years, the 22-year old entrepreneur from Spring Hill has developed a less-than-flattering reputation in cyber space where he buys and sells electronic equipment to consumers and professional photographers on craigslist and other websites.
While a lot of businesses have occasional unhappy customers, there are a number of complaints about Dono on message boards and websites, and filed with the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.
Unhappy clients of his range from Orlando to Nebraska to Philadelphia, where Kevin Sawicki, a student at Drexel University told us he never received the $1,200 in camera equipment he purchased.
"I was pretty hard hit, because that was basically all the money I had saved up for the year's Christmas. That was early birthday money, and I was just going to college at the time to become a film major," says Sawicki.
Today, Dono runs a video production company, which claims to be a limited liability corporation (LLC), although it is not registered with the state of Florida.
The Hernando County Sheriff's Office has repeatedly fielded complaints about Dono, but has only charged him once, back in 2006. Dono received pre-trial diversion after being arrested for an "organized scheme to defraud."
No one from the Sheriff's Department would talk to us on camera. But there is no doubt the department is more than aware of Dono's reputation and the complaints about him.
According to a 2006 report obtained by ABC Action News, one detective writes "Dono's past and present actions are showing an on-going pattern to scheme and defraud."
This past September, when a Nebraska man filed a complaint with the Sheriff's Office about a $1,700 digital camera he never received, Dono's own mother told detectives who came calling she "wasn't surprised Joseph would do something like this," and also mentioned "many other people have accused Joseph of trying to rip them off."
In this most recent case, Dono avoided charges after paying the Nebraska man back.
Back in Philadelphia, however, Kevin Sawicki says he has had a hard time trying to get the Hernando Sheriff's Department interested in what happened to him.
"They were just unavailable whenever I called," Sawicki says.
Kevin Jackson says the Hillsborough County's Office of Consumer Protection doesn't have any case against Dono, but that these sort of cases are difficult for a local law enforcement agency to handle.
It takes "some due diligence by the investigators. There are ways to do it, such as subpoena banks' records. Things like that can identify other victims or customers of the business. It can be done," says Jackson. "But I'm not saying it isn't a challenge."
Joe Dono wouldn't talk to us on camera, but told us in a statement "My name is dirt on the internet and there isn't anything that will change this. I'm a victim here and I don't expect anyone to believe me."
A word to the wise, Kevin Jackson says: Know who you are dealing with when buying something online. Check out the person or the company and any history of complaints.
Sometimes, it's as simple as searching Google .
STATEMENT OF JOSEPH DONO TO ABC ACTION NEWS:
To whom this may concern.
I'll date this back 3 1/2 years ago when I first had brought my car to Jap Works to get body work done on my car, I had a invoice given to me for the amount of 1,500$ dollars.
2 weeks after I paid 1,200 dollars 2 1/2 months gone by and it was always a reason why my car wasn't done yet. I decided thats it I'm getting my car done or not, I show up and my car wasn't done and is in pieces. We called the Ocala PD, they told us that its a cilvil matter.
After I went home that night Aaron the shop owners found dirt on me from when I was 17 years old, used that against me to make me look like a complete fool.
I can't defend my self against thousands of internet viewers who made there assumption of who I am based off of Jap Works outlook.
I was out of the 1,200 dollars paid to Jap works I was out of my 16,000 dollar car and yet I'm told I am the scam artist... Seems like Jap works made a bill of any amount to keep me from having my car. Weeks after I've made them a offer of 6,000 dollars they refused it and kept claiming they would own the car one day. 1 week before Tampa Credit union had taken the car back I made a 6,000 dollar offer again to release my car and the owner Aaaron had said the co-owner will not settle for nothing less then "16,000 dollars" and is being a "dick" about budging on pricing.
From that day forward I gave up on getting my car, I currently to this day am paying off a 16,000 dollar car I do not have.... Who was scammed? My creditability on the internet? The 1,200 I gave to the shop, my car.
This now brings