Hernando seniors lose hundreds in home repair scam

- A Spring Hill couple has been busted for preying on senior citizens, scamming them out of thousands of dollars.

Investigators said they told sob stories to prospective clients, asking to do work on their driveways to make money. FOX 13 spoke with some of the victims Monday.

The shoddy work on Joe Castorino's driveway was obvious.

"More of this stuff has washed off," he explained.

Betty Durham's driveway has cracks in it.

"It looks worse now than it did before," she said.

Deputies said Dennis Prairie and his girlfriend Marion Brown would drive up and tell their sad story.

"His teeth were all rotted out," said Durham, of Prairie.

"It was toward the holiday season," said Castorino. "(He said), 'I am looking for work, I have a family.'"

They would say, for only a few hundred dollars in cash, they could re-do a driveway before it even got dark out.

"And make it look like brand new," recalled Durham.

Deputies said the phony construction workers would mix up a batch of watered-down concrete, slop it on top with a broom, and call it a day. Soon, the driveways would start to peel away.

"I tried calling him, leaving messages and whatever, nothing," said Castornio. "You don't hear anything back from the guy."

Deputies said the pair made off with at least $8,000 from senior citizens. They know of 13 victims, but suspect there could be up to 50 more.

"We know it is difficult that you may have fallen victim to him," said Det. Shawn Galarza, of the Hernando Co. Sheriff's Office. "But if you could just give us a call, no one is going to think any less of you, and we really want to help you out."

Deputies asked FOX 13 not to use their pictures in this story, so anyone who IDs them will have done so from their memory of what happened.

Deputies said Prairie told them he thought he was taking so little money it would be considered civil and not criminal.

"This gentleman is a scam artist at its core," said Galarza.

Deputies say it's possible the suspects hit victims from Hernando to Hillsborough.

Castorino and Durham have written off ever getting their money back.

"They (are) in the pondscum area," said Castornio. "The big thing is making sure the police get him on enough charges and put him jail, and leave him in jail."

They have been charged with grand theft. There is a warrant out for Prairie's arrest in Missouri, so even if he bonds out, he will have to be held until he answers for those charges.

Deputies ask everyone to do as much research as possible before hiring someone, and anyone who shows up asking to do work probably isn't the real deal.

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