Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Louis Bruno Arrested For Fraud

TALLAHASSEE, FL.—Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Office today announced the arrest of a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning repairman Louis Bruno for fraud. 

The arrest follows investigations by Attorney General Moody’s Consumer Protection Division and the Office of Statewide Prosecution into former Bruno Total Home Performance owner Louis Bruno. Bruno, along with nine of his former employees, allegedly used high-pressure sales and scare tactics to induce consumers to purchase services and products that were not needed. 

The vast majority of Bruno’s victims were seniors—some living on fixed incomes. Bruno’s schemes involved defrauding consumers in the sale of HVAC services and products and submitting fraudulent consumer loan applications.

See Southwest Florida Online investigative report on Bruno from June 2016 here
Attorney General Ashley Moody said, “My Office is taking action both civilly and criminally against these defendants to account for the fraudulent scams they perpetrated under the guise of serving consumers. Today’s actions will help bring these defendants to justice and will seek to make these victims whole.”

The arrest follows two separate investigations conducted by Attorney General Moody’s Office of Statewide Prosecution in conjunction with Cape Coral Police Department and the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division. According to the investigations, Bruno and former employees allegedly tricked customers into signing contracts and, in other cases, forged customers’ signatures.

According to reports from Attorney General Moody’s Consumer Protection Division, the office received approximately 245 complaints, including 135 from seniors, alleging that BRUNO AIR misled consumers about the actual cost of the HVAC units to be installed and, in some instances, installed units that were different from those agreed upon by the consumers. In many instances, consumers alleged that BRUNO AIR tricked them into signing on electronic devices sales or financing documents that consumers were told were estimates or pre-loan qualifying documents.

Additionally, numerous consumers who obtained financing through BRUNO AIR allege the company misrepresented the prices for the HVAC products and the terms of financing, and, in some instances, installed HVAC units before financing was approved. BRUNO AIR also allegedly submitted consumer financing applications without the consumer’s authorization by forging signatures or copying and pasting signatures from another document. When consumers complained about these practices, BRUNO AIR often allegedly filed liens against the consumers’ property or initiated foreclosure proceedings.

The complaint also alleges BRUNO AIR often began installation of HVAC units without obtaining the proper permitting, and in numerous instances, consumers were left with HVAC units that were either incomplete or incorrectly installed. According to the civil complaint, BRUNO AIR failed to return consumers’ calls regarding the incomplete installation of HVAC units or the failure of units to pass inspection.

To view the complaint, click here.

According to Attorney General Moody’s Office of Statewide Prosecution, Bruno and former employees allegedly schemed to defraud customers and lenders who participated in the PACE program, a financing program that is intended to assist consumers with energy-efficient improvements to their homes, including installation of more energy-efficient HVAC units.

According to the criminal investigation, Bruno and former employees used customers’ personal identification information to submit PACE loan applications to potential lenders without the knowledge or consent of the customers. The applications contained false information, including grossly inflated monthly incomes and forged signatures. In many cases, forged signatures were notarized by Bruno employees and submitted as supporting documents for the loan applications. The loan proceeds were then directly deposited into a bank account maintained by Bruno.

Bruno and former employees are charged collectively with one count of scheme to defraud, a first-degree felony; 16 counts of fraudulent use of personal identification information, a second-degree felony; 15 counts of communication fraud, a third-degree felony; four counts of filing fraudulent papers in court to deprive someone of real property, a third-degree felony; and four counts of fraudulent use of a notary, a third-degree felony. If convicted, Bruno faces up to 385 years in prison and more than $290,000 in fines and restitution. Attorney General Moody’s Office of Statewide Prosecution will prosecute the case.

Sheriff Declares Emergency For Clewiston Area Wednesday

CLEWISTON, FL. -- Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden announced today that he is declaring a State of Emergency for the Eastern portion of Hendry County effective Wednesday June 3, 2020 from 8:00 pm until 5:00 am on June 4, 2020.

Whidden said, "This decision is based on social media announcements that Black Lives Matter is attempting to organize a protest at the Walmart located in the City of Clewiston. Additional comments on those announcements and other social media pages are inciting criminal behavior and threatening to loot, damage and burn private property, i.e. Walmart."

Whidden said the protesters are said to be at Walmart a 6 p.m. and Walmart is closing it's doors at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

"Citizens are instructed to remain at home during this time and movement is restricted to that for essential services/purposes only. Travel to and from work is included as essential business," said the Sheriff's Department.

"While Sheriff Whidden has sworn to uphold the United States Constitution and the State of Florida Constitution, that includes the protection of life and property along with right of assembly and free speech," said a press release this afternoon.

Sheriff Whidden stated, “What happened to Mr. George Floyd was uncalled for and the people responsible should pay for their despicable acts and I’m confident they will. However, it is a sad day when I am forced to take this drastic action to protect our citizens from the anarchy and lawlessness of a fringe population that wants to incite our neighbors to commit crimes and harm the people in their own communities.

"I will take whatever measures I feel are necessary and I encourage the citizens of Hendry County to be prepared to defend their property and families, should that need arise. I will always protect the right of the people to peaceably protest but when crimes occur, it is my duty to respond.”

Monday, June 01, 2020

Fresh Food To Families In Clewiston And LaBelle

LABELLE, FL. -- Hope Healthcare is collaborating with GA Foods and local food pantries to distribute “Fresh Food Combo Boxes” to Hendry County residents. If you, or someone you know, is inneed of food, please visit one of the pantries listed on the dates of distribution.

“Fresh Food Combo Boxes” include pre-cooked meat, fruit, vegetables, and dairy products. The boxes must be refrigerated within 4 hours of receiving!

Pick up dates: (every Monday for the following dates)
June 8th, June 15th, June 22nd, and June 29th in Clewiston: 10:00am – 12:00pm at Compassion Avenue Food Pantry, 370 Holiday Isles and LaBelle: 1:00pm – 3:00pm at Christ Central Food Pantry, 540 1st Avenue.

Testing This Week:

The Florida Department of Health in Hendry County in coordination with Emergency Management has scheduled a mobile testing bus in Hendry County. These are "one-day only" testing locations.

Wednesday, June 3rd, Montura Clubhouse, 255 N. Hacienda St, Clewiston, FL (9am-5pm)

Thursday, June 4th, Pioneer Community Center, 910 Panama Ave, Clewiston, FL (9am-5pm)

Friday, June 5th, Felda Community Center, 55 N Willis Ranch Road, Felda, FL 33930 (9am-5pm)

Cuthbert Strong Dies At 90

Cuthbert M Strong, age 90, of LaBelle, passed away May 31, 2020 in Lehigh Acres. 

She was born Feb. 4, 1930 in Glades County, FL, to the late William Henry and Cuthbert (Browning) McDuffie. 

Survivors include one son: William Michael Douglas of Gulf Breeze, FL one brother: Henry McDuffie one sister: Glenora Purvis 

Memorial Services are Pending. Arrangements by Akin-Davis Funeral Home - LaBelle.

Hendry COVID Cases Now One In NInety-Five Residents

LABELLE, FL. -- As of Monday, June 1 there are 431 Hendry cases with 2,607 people tested and 15 deaths. 1 in 95 people in Hendry have the virus under the current testing. a higher rate of infection than any other county surrounding Hendry county.

The current number of Hendry County residents who have been cleared by the Florida Department of Health and are no longer required to be isolated is 53.

1 in 282 residents on the LaBelle side of the county have been infected and 1 in 58 on the Clewiston side.

In Glades county, cases increased to 32 and 1 death previously reported, with only 276 tested so far. 1 in 425 residents have the virus, at the current very low rate of testing in Glades County.

Glades County Public Safety has been notified that a 39 year old male from Crescent Acres, a 58 year old male from Moore Haven, a 62 year old male from Moore Haven, 44 year old female from Moore Haven, and a 34 year old male from Moore Haven have tested positive for COVID-19. This brings the number of positive cases in Glades County to 32.

Hotspots in the area in nearby Palm Beach county include the South Bay Correctional Facility operated by the GEO Group, Inc. where 167 prisoners, or 1 in 12 prisoners, have the virus and also 54 staff. 1,151 inmates are under medical quarantine.

Belle Glade, a hotspot in West Palm Beach county had an increase to 394 cases or 1 in 53 residents, and South Bay with 203 cases or 1 in 25 people.

The Immokalee area, in Collier county has 588 cases, or 1 in 53 residents.

UPDATE: As of Tuesday, June 2 there are 446 Hendry cases with 2,679 people tested and 16 deaths. 1 in 92 people in Hendry have the virus under the current testing. a higher rate of infection than any other county surrounding Hendry county.


1 in 255 residents on the LaBelle side of the county are infected and 1 in 57 on the Clewiston side.

In Glades county, cases increased dramatically, doubling overnight to 61 and 1 death previously reported, with only 307 tested so far. 1 in 223 residents have the virus, at the current very low rate of testing in Glades County.

Hotspots in the area in nearby Palm Beach county include the South Bay Correctional Facility operated by the GEO Group, Inc. where 167 prisoners, or 1 in 12 prisoners, have the virus and also 54 staff. 1,151 inmates are under medical quarantine.

Belle Glade, a hotspot in West Palm Beach county has 394 cases or 1 in 53 residents, and South Bay with 206 cases or 1 in 24 people.

The Immokalee area, in Collier county has 588 cases, or 1 in 53 residents.


UPDATE: The Florida Department of Health in Hendry County in coordination with Emergency Management has scheduled a mobile testing bus in Hendry County. These are "one-day only" testing locations.

-Wednesday, June 3rd, Montura Clubhouse, 255 N. Hacienda St, Clewiston, FL (9am-5pm)
-Thursday, June 4th, Pioneer Community Center, 910 Panama Ave, Clewiston, FL (9am-5pm)
-Friday, June 5th, Felda Community Center, 55 N Willis Ranch Road, Felda, FL 33930 (9am-5pm)