On Thursday, February 7, 2013, Polk County Sheriff's Central District patrol deputies responded to the Auburndale area and observed what appeared to be four traveling scam artists paving driveways. The deputies asked for assistance from Polk County Sheriff's detectives familiar with these types of scams. When the detectives arrived on scene, they found four men using several different paving business names such as Orange Paving, Ace Paving, Chad Lee Paving, and Power Black Top Paving. Each business had a fictitious address or P.O. Box. These four suspects possessed driver's licenses from three different states: Tennessee, North Carolina, and Illinois.
According to their affidavits, the men drove to the Auburndale area in several commercial vehicles* and solicited home owners to allow them to pave their driveways. The first victim, a 74-year-old woman who lives at 2113 Terry Lane, agreed to pay the men $2,500 to pave her driveway. All four suspects admitted to paving the driveway with a mixture of old crushed asphalt, dirt, and assorted debris. The suspects also went to two other homes, 2115 Terry Lane and 2601 Thornhill Road, and negotiated with the victims who live there to pave their driveways for $2,500 and $6,400 respectively. The suspects admitted to using the same inferior product on the subsequent victims' homes.
Detectives observed driveways which were crumbling apart, with foliage observed through the material.
"Our deputies are very proactive, and when they are out on patrol they are always looking for what's amiss. I'm very proud of the patrol deputies who spotted these scam artists and were able to stop them from victimizing these Auburndale homeowners. If you feel you have been the victim of a scam like this, call law enforcement immediately." - Sheriff Grady Judd
* The commercial vehicles used were: a 2006 International Dump Truck with a NC tag pulling a 1995 Anderson trailer containing a Stone DDR3100 Roller; a GEHL 1438 Paver; a Case SR175 Bobcat; and a 2008 GMC dump truck with a IL tag. Both dump trucks and all the commercial equipment involved were found to be lien free and were seized under the Florida Forfeiture Act. The seized equipment is valued at approximately $140,000.
The following suspects, who told detectives they are all related, were arrested and booked into the Polk County Jail:
- Jim Stevens, DOB 08/21/77, of 1726 NC Highway 86 N, Hillsborough, NC
- Richard Pierce, DOB 05/31/68, of 1006 Willow Park Circle, Hendersonville, TN
- Chad Lee, Sr., DOB 08/15/72, of 13341 Wellesley Circle, Plainfield, IL
- Chad Lee, Jr., DOB 12/28/93, of 200 Nesbitt Lane, Madison, TN
The suspects were each charged with the following crimes:
- 2 counts Burglary of an Occupied Dwelling (F2) – NO BOND per FL Statute
- 2 counts Grand Theft (F3)
- 3 counts Scheming to Defraud (F3)
- 3 counts Workers Compensation Fraud (F3)
- 1 count Grand Theft from a Person 65 years of age or older (F2)
- 1 count Exploitation of the Elderly (F3)
- 3 counts Solicitation Without a Permit (M2)
Thanks to the media coverage and Facebook postings about the arrests, 17 additional victims, from Lakeland, Auburndale, and Winter Haven, came forward to report being swindled by the suspects.
Between Tuesday, February 11th and Thursday, February 14th, 2013, PCSO detectives met with all 17 victims and took sworn statements from them about how the suspects took money from them to pave their driveways, and then used inferior products. All 17 victims positively identified the suspects and provided evidence of the rock and dirt mixture that was used.
All four suspects are still in the Polk County Jail on the original charges. Each suspect already had between $30,000 and $40,000 worth of bond on their cumulative charges. They have all now been additionally charged. Each suspect now has the following charges:
Chad Lee Jr. = 95 charges
Chad Lee Sr. = 112 charges
Richard Pierce = 111 charges
Jim Stevens = 83 charges
We have sent out warnings on scams like these in the past. Click the link below to read the most recent news release, and for tips on how to avoid being victimized:
"Reminder: Beware of Traveling 'Home Improvement' Scam Artists" http://bit.ly/RW7mDa