Deputies: Couple in their 70s lose their savings to a scam


Published: Friday, January 30, 2009 at 4:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 30, 2009 at 4:35 p.m.

A warrant has been issued for an unlicensed contractor suspected of scamming a couple in their 70s out of their life savings while they were trying to build their dream retirement home.

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Jacob J. Winters

ALACHUA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE AND FDOC

The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office is looking for Jacob J. Winters, 24, of Lake City, on charges of grand larceny and exploitation of the elderly.

According to sheriff’s Detective Sandra Myers, the couple, who are ages 75 and 77, thought they had a business relationship with Winters. The couple told investigators they wanted to have a log cabin built in Colorado so they could live closer to their children. The couple said they bought a log cabin kit and gave Winters $17,687 as a deposit for building the cabin.

They eventually discovered that Winters did not have a contractor’s license, had not done any work on the home and would not contact the couple or return any of their money.

Sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Steve Maynard said their home in Florida had been paid for, but the apparent scam forced them to take out a mortgage. Now the couple is living on their Social Security income.

Myers and Maynard said the couple’s plight is an example of why the Sheriff’s Office staged a crackdown a few months ago on unlicensed contractors operating in the county.

“We hate to see this happen to anyone, which is why we are always telling people to use a reputable, licensed contractor,” Maynard said.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Jacob J. Winters is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at 955-1818. Anyone with information who prefers to remain anonymous and be eligible to receive a reward of up to $1,000 can call Crime Stoppers at 372-STOP (7867).

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