Bruno Air owner and former employees arrested, face multiple counts of fraud
The owner of a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning company was arrested Tuesday after turning himself in ￼on charges of fraud.
The arrest of Louis Bruno follows investigations into Bruno Total Home Performance by Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Consumer Protection Division and the Office of Statewide Prosecution working with Cape Coral police.
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 may not have been needed.
Many 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.
The arrest follows two separate investigations conducted by the Office of Statewide Prosecution in conjunction with CCPD 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.
Sawyer Smith, Bruno’s attorney, issued a statement Tuesday afternoon, saying, “Mr. Bruno self surrendered to law enforcement this afternoon. While we are disappointed the Government decided to charge our client, due process will allow us to defend Mr. Bruno in a courtroom. And we certainly will.”
Cape Coral Police Chief David Newlan said, “My heart goes out to those that fell victim to this hideous crime to defraud people out of their money and jeopardize losing their homes. The law has prevailed bringing those responsible to justice, to pay for the crimes they have committed. The Cape Coral Police Department will always be there to protect its citizens and bring those to justice that break the law.”
According to reports from the 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 unit 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 the company tricked them into signing sales or financing documents on electronic devices 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 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, the company often allegedly filed liens against the consumer’s 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.
According to the 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 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 income 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 with:
- 1 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.
- 4 counts of filing fraudulent papers in court to deprive someone of real property, a third-degree felony.
- 4 counts of fraudulent use of a notary, a third-degree felony.