On Wednesday, Flagler County government issued a brief release with this title: “Flagler County prevails in unlicensed contractor lawsuit.”
The title was accurate in so far as it went. A judge had ordered James Cigler, an unlicensed Palm Coast contractor, to pay restitution to an elderly woman for work left incomplete and substandard.
But the county did not quite prevail in more than the strictest meaning of the term. If anything, Cigler continues to prevail as a working, unlicensed contractor, advertising his services
A look at Cigler’s history indicates that he’s been engaging in the same kind of unlicensed contractual work time after time, has been incurring complaints from a state agency, from local individuals, and of course from the county, and the harshest penalty he’s had to face so far is a sentence of one day in jail–which he didn’t even have to serve. He’s been ordered to pay restitution in several cases, but there’s no record of him making good on his payment.
There is, however, this record: he continues to advertise in the Penny Saver, and continues to call himself licensed and insured. The last such ad ran in January 2019. Cigler did not return a phone call to the number advertised for his company. A check with the state Department of Business and Professional Regulations indicates he is not licensed.
He might have been claiming that he was “licensed” through Palm Coast, where he once had a business tax receipt. (“These are the games these people play,” the Sheriff’s Office’s Mark Strobridge said.) But in fact, Cigler’s business tax receipt is inactive “due to non-payment,” a Palm Coast official said. He was last in compliance during the 2017-18 license year. (Expiration was last September.)
He doesn’t even have a driver’s license.
Flagler County, Palm Coast and the sheriff’s office have regularly issued releases warning residents about unlicensed contractors, and the sheriff’s office has occasionally played up the arrest of contractors. But as Cigler’s history suggests, there’s not always much teeth behind the warnings, allowing contractors like Cigler to keep on working even as judgments pile up against them.
On May 30 last year, Cigler, a Palm Coast contractor known as “The Gutter Guy,” took $1,500 from a homeowner on Woodlawn Drive, “performed substandard work, and did not complete the work,” according to court papers.
The city filed a complaint with the county’s Contractor Review Board and sent Cigler notice of the hearing in mid-July. He did not show up. The board fined him $500. He did not pay. He was required to pay the homeowner $1,500 in restitution. He did not do so. The review board’s clerk sent him notice that he was in violation of the order. He did not respond.
“As a result, the only consequence of performing the unlicensed work and failing to pay the fine or restitution is that Cigler is prohibited from obtaining building permits from Flagler County and the City of Palm Coast,” a legal memo in the case reads.
On Jan. 8, the county’s code enforcement division issued him a $30 citation for failing to comply with the board’s order. The county filed suit in county court to issue an order against Cigler to make good on his payments. The hearing was scheduled for Monday. Cigler did show up at that hearing. (An earlier version of the story incorrectly reported that he had not.)
On Tuesday, Circuit Judge Chris France issued an order satisfying the county’s request. Cigler is to pay $200 a month to the homeowner he defrauded until the $1,500 sum is paid off and provide proof that he did so every month to contractor review board’s clerk. Once those payments are completed, he’s to make $200 installments to county government until his $500 fine is paid off. His $30 is suspended, and he may avoid having to pay it if Cigler makes good on all the other payments.
Whether he’ll pay is anybody’s guess. He’s still facing a small-claims suit for $2,500 in Flagler court from a Zebra Court resident who says he filed a complaint against him with the Sheriff’s Office. The homeowner pursued the case and France ordered Cigler to repay $2,212 with interest last May. Cigler has been ordered to appear before France in that case and has not done so, resulting in Cigler being found in contempt last October. That case is ongoing.
Around the same time that the Z-Section resident was having an issue with Cigler, a Flagler Beach resident filed a complaint about Cigler with the Department of Business and Professional Regulations that mirrored the same pattern: Cigler had agreed to replace siding and soffit on a Central Avenue house. He was paid $17,500, and never completed the work. No permit was secured for the work, according to the complaint, and Cigler kept asking for extra money. Cigler was not licensed.
Cigler was arrested on Jan. 27, 2018, but released within minutes on his own recognizance. He eventually pleaded no contest for engaging in contracting without a license, was sentenced to one day in jail–and given credit for one day, because he’d spent 38 minutes in jail at the time of his arrest earlier in the year. Circuit Judge Terence Perkins withheld adjudication. He was required to pay restitution, however. He did not do so, triggering the suspension of his driver’s license.
“If it’s just a civil order, we have no authority,” Sheriff’s Chief Mark Strobridge said of Cigler’s other court orders.
Sean Moylan, the assistant county attorney on the Cigler case, said the county is trying to put teeth behind lawful Contractor Review Board orders to pay restitution. “Cigler’s case was the first time we brought an individual who ignored a CRB order to pay restitution to court,” Moylan said. “We will be bringing more of these cases. There are a number of unlicensed contractors preying on residents, particularly although not exclusively, the elderly. Many (I don’t have an exact count) have ignored lawful CRB orders to pay restitution. We will be pursuing these individuals, seeking orders from the County Court to pay the restitution. There is only so much we can do for the most recalcitrant offenders. In extreme cases, the only thing that may prevent them from continuing to defraud the public is incarceration.”
He said education is key, as property owners should ask to see proof of licensure and insurance before providing a deposit for any handyman work, or call the permitting departments at either the county or city governments to verify the contractor’s credentials.
Cigler has his criminal issues as well. In October he was arrested and charged for driving without a license, a felony this time because it wasn’t just a matter of not paying restitution: he had judgments against him in Volusia and Flagler, including failure to complete court-ordered substance abuse treatment, failures to pay traffic fines and previously driving on a revoked license. The State Attorney’s Office however downgraded the charge to a first-degree misdemeanor. The case is ongoing. The same thing had happened in 2016: he got a felony charge for habitually driving on a revoked license, the charge was downgraded, he was found guilty of a second-degree misdemeanor, but he wasn’t making his required payments, and his case went to a collection agency.
So lock him up and then HE cant continue to break the law ITS simple
It is time to put this so called contractor away.
Julie Jace says
Finally, this man is not dishonest, he is dangerous.
Anthony J Czerepka says
I see this all the time. I’m a State Certified Building Contractor and I hear this all the time from customers. Customers want the cheap price but refuse to understand a guy like this is cheap because he has no license, no insurance and cannot secure any type of permit. If people would stop and think for half a minute, maybe realize why the price is so cheap, guys like this would go away without any help from the law. The law is not for the unlicensed contractor its for the licensed contractors. The county and state can find us and fine us if need be, suspend our license, we have to pay in order to keep our license in good standing.
The judges in this county are way too lenient. I was also ripped off by a contractor. The judge gave him two years to pay me back in full with a $-0- monthly minimum payment. Maybe if the judges in this county got ripped off by an unscrupulous contractor, they would be singing a different tune. Everyone does their job to bring these scum to justice, and then the judges let them off Scot free. Unbelievable.
If he was locked up he wouldn’t have been able to scam any of these people mentioned. Dozens of citizens do time for petty crime, while this man receives a slap on the wrist & is let go time and time again.
Concerned Citizen says
The Sheriff’s Office is partly to blame and is enabling this man to continue working.
Why lock someone up on an offense and then release him on an OR bond? If deputies know this man is driving around with no license a traffic stop should result in an arrest.
Finally our legal system needs to stop downgrading charges and accepting pleas on habitual offenders. If you did your job properly then this dude wouldn’t be running around ripping people off.
Jim Cigler I hope you realize by the publication of this article your time is up in Flagler County. Word of mouth travels fast.
FB is my Home says
…the Sherriff’s Office is not to blame. The moronic judges we have in this County do not work for them and they are who let them back out.
Thank you for warning us about this crook.
Flagler gal says
Wonder who he knows or is related to that he gets away with all of this. I know a woman in Beverly Beach who he scammed, plus a guy working for him was a convicted pedophile. Be careful people, he’s a bad one.
I hold the cities of Flagler Beach & Palm Coast plus law enforcement totally responsible for not holding and enforcing his responsibilities. Why do you keep doing the same thing over and over again thinking you’re going to get a different result. What the hell are you thinking anyway???
Rick G says
For anyone to have a business tax receipt does not mean they are licensed to do what they claim they can do. It just means they paid the county a fee.
Doug A says
Things like this show what a joke the Court’s are. This is a habitual offender and all he gets is a slap on the wrist.
So, in other words, if you are a crook, come to Florida. No wonder there are so many here!
Okay, here we have a guy who is running a confidence game on the residents of Flagler County with impunity, where do I sign up? In the last 8 months this clown has scammed folks to the tune of $20,000 plus and will never repay a dime. I am willing to bet it was all cash as these guys never take checks because no bank will deal with them. Taxes? What taxes, it’s a cash business and no one will ever know how much actually went through his hands.
The hands of the police are tied as it is a civil issue. The courts cannot do any more than they have because there is no current state statute or county ordinance which makes it a criminal issue.
If our contractor licensing rules are not enforceable with criminal penalties what good are they – just empty words to keep honest people honest and allow the scum to graze off the residents of the county/city. Might as well repeal the ordinances. Then again, there are several local building departments in the area who do not retain properly qualified, certified and licensed inspectors – the public gets screwed on both ends.
Our local elected officials (BOCC, Palm Coast, Bunnell, Flagler Beach) need to get off their collective rear ends and pass some legislation with teeth to protect their residents from thieves such as Mr. Cigler.
Rick Stevens says
Have done business with Jim. He and his crew worked hard on our home. He is well intentioned and hard working. I don’t believe he ever sets out to defraud anyone, or to do substandard work. Sadly, he is struggling to keep his business afloat and his helpers paid. He is a nice guy, trying hard. If any readers have tried to work in the trades and gotten behind on bills and obligations, robbing Peter to pay Paul, you know what that’s like. Things can get out of control in spite of your best efforts. You have to keep driving to keep working, too. I feel bad for this guy. The public lynching in this article is shortsighted, in my view. Just because this man is “unlicensed” and uninsured doesn’t mean he’s deceptive or dishonest. More likely it means he can’t come up with the cash to satisfy the money grabbers, because he’s trying to buy materials and pay workers.
Terrance Bryant says
Rick: Judging character is not your strong suit. This man is a con artist. Everything is in his girlfriends name and being self employed it’s hard to garnish his wages. I’m the victim on Zebra Ct. and I know all about him. He knows small claims can’t collect a judgement and Judge France didn’t want to be bothered with this and let him walk. “prove it” is what the judge kept telling me. With the courts being worthless my advice is never pay a Fla. contractor until you are completely satisfied.
When you have the highest elected official in the country pulling the same stuff, what should we expect from his supporters?
Wow. We have seen the Pennysaver ads and were going to call him for a quote. Good thing we waited. Good story…thank you.
This is standard operating procedure for palm coast. Redidents keep hiring unlicensed people anywhere from mowing grass to roofing. Wait until one gets hurt on your property and they have no insurance.. They will sue you.
Barry Altman says
He ripped me off as well. Charged me $300 to clean my gutters said it was a difficult job and would take 1-2 hours. 10 minutes later he said he was finished. Had never had this done before and I did not know what was involved. Ripping off a senior citizen. He also wanted cash only. STAY AWAY FROM HIM !
One of the comments posted earlier is incorrect. Unlicensed contracting is a crime acoording to Florida statutes,in fact under certain circumstance it is a felony. Unfortunately local law enforcement doesn’t take it seriously. Most of the victims are senior citizens. The Seniors vs Crimes program do their very best but in the end they really have no teeth. The only time law enforcement seems to put an effort forth is the case of the dog and pony shows that they call stings. The only reason they even do that is for positive press coverage. Most of the time they have no interest in enforcing these laws. They claim everything is civil which it is not. Other counties in Florida even have detectives assigned to unlicensing contractor cases. Not Flagler . Until law enforcement takes these types of frauds seriously nothing will change.
Douglas E. Priest says
Where is Marshall Dillon? That boy needs his butt whipped and should spend time in the jail until those folks get their money repaid. Make him sell his house!
I don’t feel pity for anyone that gets “scammed” by these people. It’s super easy to verify a license and insurance and reputation. This isn’t 1980. You’re simply out to save a quick buck just like they’re out to make a quick buck. Stupid is as stupid does.
He may or may not be a nice guy. Doesn’t matter. What he’s doing is illegal. Plain and simple.
Concerned Citizen says
There are such offenses like theft by deception and theft by taking. Our Sheriff’s Office is just to concerned with hanging out with NRA members to enforce the law.
If you take cash or other financial reimbursement from someone and fail to complete agreed services you stole that money.
Bernie 2020 says
Anthony Fennick is put in prison for a drug problem and dies when all he needed was medical treatment yet this guy who has scammed how many people is still out and free. This is what is wrong with our justice system folks. We punish sick and mentally ill people with prison and allow guys like this that are breaking all the basic laws and harming people (not themselves) to be free.
Welcome to PC Contractors 101 says
This is a great encapsulation of experiences with trying to obtain honest contractors here in Palm Coadt; in my opinion. We have Compliance Management. We have building departments. We have licensing. We have Sheriffs and Courts systems. Wouldn’t it be novel to have a team of inspectors that just showed up around town at job sites and demanded to see their licenses, insurance papers, documentation of permits ifbthe work was over the required amount etc.
Guaranteed we wouldn’t have that many unscrupulous individuals driving around not knowing when someone in unmarked cars may show up and then close them down and haul the entire crew to jail and actually arrest them and detain them for bail and later then would have an arrest record.
Just my opinion.
Randy Jones says
This is not unlike laws that seek to control the unlawful acquisition and use of firearms. Lots of laws on the books (many of them are felonies) and the courts all too often allow violators to “plead down” and serve no time incarcerated. There just aren’t enough prison beds and the prosecutors and the judges know this.
Jon Gruden says
Seize everything he owns….truck, tools, bank account, house, land etc…