Cape contractor sentenced to prison in fraud case
A Cape Coral contractor accused three years ago of defrauding customers of hundreds of thousands of dollars has been sentenced to 21 months in prison.
Christopher Paul Cheney, 43, who owned Southern Premier Homes, pleaded no contest to one count of scheme to defraud in a plea arrangement accepted by Lee Circuit Judge Margaret O. Steinbeck Monday.
He also must serve 120 months of state probation following his incarceration.
Cheney “took money from customers to build homes but spent it on personal items and did not build the structures,” a release from the State Attorney’s Office issued Tuesday states.
As part of his sentence, Cheney also must make restitution of $569,303.09. He is prohibited from holding a contractor license, or any license involving working in the banking, loan, mortgage or real estate industry, according to the State Attorney’s Office.
“The crime was discovered when a victim went to check on the progress of their home and found out the business office, located in Cape Coral, had permanently closed,” the release states. “The Cape Coral Police Department investigated, leading to Cheney’s arrest.”
The CCPD said Tuesday it is happy with how the case has been resolved.
“Our Financial Crimes Unit detective worked hard on this case and was pleased with the end result. We’re also thankful for the work the State Attorney’s Office put in to the case to come to a good resolution for the victim(s),” the agency said via email.
In an release issued in September 2018 following Cheney’s arrest, the CCPD alleged that Cheney swindled more than $700,000 from customers who had contracted to build a home and charged him with fraud-swindle obtain property more than $50,000.
The department said it began its investigation in the wake of multiple customer complaints.
“The Cape Coral Police took several reports in 2017 in reference to Southern Premier Homes, LLC regarding fraud claims,” the September 2018 CCPD release stated.
The agency assigned a Financial Crimes Unit detective to investigate.
“Each victim reported that they contracted with Southern Premier Homes, LLC and were in the process of building homes with the company. The victims had given varied amounts of money to the company, which were intended for building needs,” officials said at the time.
The complainants told investigators that they dealt directly with the owner of the business, Cheney.
“In each case the victims reported that the monies that were provided were not used as intended and they were unable to recoup any money back,” the release stated.
The case was prosecuted by the State Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit. Assistant State Attorney Jessica Horowitz and Assistant State Attorney James Miller, ECU Chief, handled the prosecution.