Bay area contractor has history of complaints and convictions for fraud

Customers say they had no idea of painter's past

TAMPA - More than 25 homeowners have made complaints against Bay area contractor Charles Runge.

In Pinellas County, it is against the law to work as a painter without a license. Runge, 61, is not licensed, yet we found him painting driveways at  the Lake Tarpon Mobile Home Village, a senior community in Palm Harbor.

When we questioned Runge on camera, he admitted to working with out a license.

Homeowner Ava Riggs is one of five park residents we found who is unhappy. Each says they paid Runge hundreds of dollars to paint their driveways, but they say the work either wasn't finished or the paint quickly began peeling.

Runge has a criminal history.

In 2005, he served seven months of a 13 month sentence for grand theft and contractor fraud.

Then in 2011, he pled no contest to scheming to defraud four customers in Spring Hill. The court sentenced him to time served and ordered restitution of more than $3,000.

The I-Team first reported on Runge in 2012 after we discovered more than 20 seniors in the Country Aire Village Mobile home park in Zephyrhills who claim they did not get what they paid for.

The I-Team obtained documents filed with the Pasco State Attorney's Office and found 22 Country Aire homeowners filed reports with the sheriff's office over quality issues and unfinished work.

But letters from the state attorney's office to the victims state "... That the facts and circumstances as presented do not warrant prosecution at this time..."

Now a year and a half later, Runge is under investigation again. Pinellas County Consumer Protection says they are looking into four recent complaints that could lead to criminal charges.

Runge told us he's changed his ways and has dozens of happy customers. But he could not explain why he was working without a license.

Pinellas consumer protection's investigation is ongoing. 

The county's construction licensing board hit Runge with a $500 fine the very day we caught him working with out a license. 

So far, he has paid $100 of that fine. 

Before hiring any contractor to work on your home, check the status of a license and complaint history.

You can do that by contacting your county's construction licensing office and you can also go through the state at the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.



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