hidden Facebook pixel script

Construction fraud becoming ‘disturbing trend’ in ‘target rich’ St. Johns County: State Attorney

Marilyn Parker, Reporter
Published: February 26, 2024, 10:56 AM
Updated: February 27, 2024, 5:39 AM

Spencer Calvert, who owns Pineapple Corporation, was arrested Thursday and accused of misappropriating over $15 million

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – State Attorney R.J. Larizza on Monday said fast-growing St. Johns County, which has new communities popping up all over, has become a target-rich environment for construction fraud.

Larizza held a news conference Monday morning to detail the arrest of a St. Johns County builder who was accused of abandoning projects in Nocatee. Spencer Calvert, who owns Pineapple Corporation, was arrested Thursday and charged with embezzling construction funds, grand larceny of $100,000 or more and organized scheme to defraud. The SAO has seized 66 boxes of documents, 14 computers and cellphones from Pineapple Corporation, which Larizza said was once a reputable company.

Larizza said the arrest of Calvert and the media coverage that followed has led to other potential victims coming forward to report unrelated issues with their contractors and builders and could lead to future arrests.

“Northeast Florida, as you well know, is a very popular destination. It’s become more and more popular, folks are moving here, hence we have folks like the Pineapple Corporation building homes and making nice communities,” Larizza said. “The problem is it’s a target-rich environment. Sometimes it’s it’s fueled by greed. Sometimes it’s fueled by just incompetence, or sometimes other circumstances. But what we see happening more and more is a contractor fraud where individuals are not paying [subcontractors] or they’re not completing their work, is becoming more of an issue. We’ve had roofing companies…cabinet companies, paving companies, pool companies that we are prosecuting throughout the Seventh Circuit and beyond.”

According to the Sheriff’s Office, Calvert had contracts with customers to build homes in Nocatee from 2019-2023, but the homes were never finished. A total of 13 victims came forward.

According to investigators, Calvert got millions of dollars in deposits from customers to build their custom homes and misappropriated over $15 million.

“Some of you may be going well where is the money? Well, that’s part of our investigation, and you can rest assured that we’re gonna get to the bottom, but what I can tell you right now is where the money didn’t go. It didn’t go to the subcontractors, and it didn’t go to the completion of these homes,” Larizza said. “If your contractor is being pushy, if they’re insisting on more money and they’re not providing you documentation, that’s a red flag.”

Larizza said if you’re building a home and subcontractors aren’t showing up or the work is not being completed on schedule, talk to them to make sure everything is OK and they are getting paid.

“Anything and everything you can do to be on top of what’s happening when it’s your home, it’s your forever home that’s being built. The other thing is hold the banks accountable to do their jobs when they are providing the funding,” Larizza said.

For those victims to finish building their homes with new contractors it’s going to cost over $17 million.

His former employee described it as “robbing Peter to pay Paul.” The employee told investigators she quit after noticing multiple funding issues. She also said she’s owned $300,000.

The Sheriff’s Office said Calvert, 51, also failed to pay subcontractors and that caused more than $900,000 in liens to be filed against the alleged victims.

Homeowners told the News4JAX I-TEAM earlier this month they’re now out hundreds of thousands of dollars. In some cases, homeowners were left with just a concrete slab.

Reality TV Star Captain Sandy Yawn was one of the homeowners who were left behind by the Pineapple Corporation. Yawn said the home she and her partner paid $1.6 million for has been sitting unfinished and now has cracks in the foundation.

“We are grateful that justice is being served and that detective McGuire is working hard to uncover more of what Spencer has done. We are now leaving this in the hands of professionals,” Yawn said in a statement to News4JAX following Calvert’s arrest.

Yawn is working with a new contractor to finish her home, and she and the other homeowners left behind were talking with St. Johns County detectives.

Calvert, who was arrested in Duval County, appeared in front of a judge Friday afternoon and later bonded out. He was told a conviction on each one of his charges carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

Larizza said Calvert’s passport has been seized to make sure that he doesn’t feel the country.

“We want him to stand accountable to the prosecution for these various charges,” Larizza said.

He said the goal is not only to hold Calvert accountable but also to get some restitution back to the alleged victims.

“We can’t guarantee that they’ll get all their money back or how much they may get back, but we are going to pursue all avenues to assist them to become whole again,” Larizza said.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email