COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. — A man is behind bars after an investigation uncovered he stole more than $14,000 from an elderly client in a phony air conditioning company scam in Collier County.
Marian Kola was operating his business, Kola Cooling, without a license. Kola had been conducting business for more than a year using a business license number belonging to a local fire department inspector, according to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office. That person’s business was shown on Kola’s business cards and service vehicle.
In June 2021, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation sanctioned Kola for being unlicensed.
The 77-year-woman, who has early dementia, hired Kola to install a brand-new system a month later. Kola did not even tell her the system he installed came from a second-hand warehouse in Tampa and that it didn’t come with a warranty because it wasn’t registered with the manufacturer.
Weeks after the installation, the victim began having problems with the system.
Kola returned to the woman’s home to perform repairs in July 2022, charging her for parts. After charging her $340, she gave him her credit card, which he swiped through an app on his tablet, and she signed for. Kola told the woman her card didn’t work and asked her for a check for $340, which he then mobile deposited.
The next day, the woman received an invoice from an app Kola uses charging her another $340, as well as an additional $13,950 for a new air conditioning system, CCSO said.
She attempted to get in contact with Kola multiple times about the fraudulent charges, but he never picked up nor returned her calls or emails.
In October 2022, she saw Kola’s work van in a shopping center parking lot. In an attempt to speak to him, she boxed the van in with her car. However, Kola drove over a curb and median to avoid her, according to arrest reports.
When detectives interviewed Kola in 2022, they said he was being “completely untruthful.”
24-year-old Kola was caught at his residence Thursday and was taken into custody.
He is facing charges of grand theft ($10,000-$20,000), theft of $10,000 to $50,000 from a victim over age 65, elderly exploitation, contracting without a license, and fraudulent use of an ID.
“Thanks to excellent investigative work by Financial Crimes Bureau – Fraud Unit detectives, there’s one less unlicensed contractor in Collier County preying on vulnerable citizens in our community,” Sheriff Kevin Rambosk said.