Deputies: Warrants issued for Charlotte County homebuilders in several fraud cases

UPDATE: Stephen Dukes of HD Custom Homes was picked up by deputies from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Thursday morning and is in custody.

ORIGINAL COVERAGE: The owners of a Southwest Florida home construction business are being sought after deputies say they scammed dozens of people.

Warrants have been issued for the arrests of Matthew Harden and Stephen Dukes, owners of HD Custom Homes.

Stephen Dukes

The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office opened an investigation in late 2018 after receiving complaints. Deputies say there were 52 cases regarding HD Custom Homes. In some cases, the victims had signed contracts with the business for a new home, and in some cases paid a deposit, only to receive nothing in return. Others, deputies say, had a home completed but still had a “punch list” – or unfinished items – that needed to be done.

Harden and Dukes face 13 charges that include 12 counts of misapplication of construction funds and one count of scheming to defraud.

HD Custom Homes was on the money when it came to what their customers wanted: their dream home in Southwest Florida.

“We loved the design, that’s why we went them,” said Karen Brock of Port Charlotte.

“We love the community down here. We love the area. The people here are just kind.”

But HD Custom Homes had a habit of making promises and breaking them, investigators say.

“I’ll be perfectly honest with you; I was completely in tears. Completely,” Brock said.

“They walked away; they walked away at 41% complete, which basically meant we had walls and trusses. We had no shingles on the roof and we had no windows.”

Fred Marcussen of South Gulf Cove considers himself lucky. He had to spend just $60,000 to finish his home. Now, he hopes to get something back.

“I hope they get them in custody here fairly soon because it’s probably the closest thing we’re going to get to satisfaction or justice on this,” he said.

“After that, life goes on. We love it here and we’re not gonna make this overshadow us enjoying living here in Southwest Florida.”

The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office made its case against the company thanks to a special unit solely dedicated to investigating economic crimes.

Anyone with information regarding their whereabouts is asked to contact the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office at 941-639-0013 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS (8477).

Reporter:Anika Henanger
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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