STARKE, Fla. - Preston Kyle Harrison, a longtime pastor in this small North Florida community, was sentenced to one year of probation after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor charge of contracting without a license.
As part of the plea agreement, Harrison, 51, is required to repay more than $26,000 to a couple who hired him to repair their tornado-damaged roof last year.
Shortly after prosecutors charged him in that case, Harrison moved to Leesburg and opened a new home improvement company there, state records show.
Although Harrison claims he is now doing simple handyman work that does not require state licensing, one recent customer claims Harrison continued to pose as a licensed contractor at the same time as he was being prosecuted for that crime.
"He told me he was a licensed contractor," said Gilbert Salgado, an Orlando-based property investor who hired Harrison's company in September to renovate one of his homes.
Harrison denied making such a claim to Salgado.
"I'm in court right now for that," Harrison told News 6 shortly after entering his plea. "I would never do that."
When Circuit Court Judge James M. Colaw asked the former pastor how he would earn money to pay restitution in his criminal case, Harrison indicated that he had started a new career in a new city.
Harrison did not respond to inquiries from News 6 seeking additional information about his new company, 8067 LLC.
That same LLC name appears on the top of a printed cost estimate Harrison reportedly provided to Salgado.
Harrison's cost estimate lists tasks that do not require a state contractor license, such as painting and cabinetry work.
However, the written estimate for Salgado's home also includes roof repair and heating and air conditioner repair, jobs that can only be performed by a licensed contractor.
"He's not licensed, so he shouldn't be doing that kind of work, (such as) roof work (and) HVAC work," Salgado said.
Former pastor sentenced for unlicensed contracting
Shortly after a tornado damaged homes in the North Florida town of Lawtey last year, Helen Bohannon contacted Harrison in search of help for her leaky roof.
"I called him and asked, 'Do you know a licensed contractor?' And he said, 'Myself,'" Bohannon told WJXT-TV.
At the time, Harrison served as lead pastor at Harvest Church in Starke.
He also operated a nonprofit organization, Transformation Ministries, that provided auto repair jobs to people struggling to find employment.
Bohannon and her husband Herb, who is battling head and neck cancer, paid Harrison $26,009 to repair the roof damage.
They said Harrison gave them a copy of a written contract that identified the pastor as the contractor.
The roof continued to leak after the repairs were complete, Bohannon said, prompting her to contact the city about construction permits pulled for the job.
That's when Bohannon said she discovered that Harrison was not a licensed general contractor or licensed roofer, and that he did not obtain the legally required permits to repair her home.
“How could a pastor do this? How could a man of God do this?” she asked.
Bohannon reported the incident to police in October 2017.
Two months later, prosecutors charged Harrison with contracting without a license, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.
Harrison was removed from his job as pastor shortly after the criminal charge was filed, according to WJXT-TV.
This week, Harrison pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charge.
"I just want Ms. Bohannon satisfied. I want her restored," Harrison told the judge.
After the court hearing, Harrison gave Bohannon a $5,000 check and promised to repay the rest by the time his yearlong probation ends.
If the former pastor successfully completes his probation, the judge agreed to withhold adjudication so there is no criminal conviction on his record.
However, should Harrison fail to make the minimum $1,000 monthly restitution payment required by the court, the judge said he could be sent to jail for a year.
Orlando homeowner hires Harrison's company
Salgado, who is new to flipping properties, told News 6 an acquaintance recommended Harrison to help renovate his very first investment home.
At the time, Salgado said he was unaware that Harrison was being prosecuted in Bradford County for contracting without a license.
"He told me he was going to make that house really look good and I could sell it top dollar," Salgado said. "I gave him free reign to decide what kind of floors to put in, what color paint, and anything he thought needed to be done to get the house up to par."
Salgado said Harrison did not provide him with a formal signed contract specifying the work that would be done.
Instead, the homeowner said, he received a written cost estimate from Harrison totaling $27,500 that listed various projects such as roof repair, remodeling bathrooms, HVAC repair and painting.
In September, Salgado wrote a check payable to 8067 LLC for $13,750, which he said was a 50 percent down payment required by Harrison. About a month later, the homeowner wrote a second check to Harrison's company for $3,000, banking records show.
Salgado said most of the work that was done at his home was by a man he understood to be a subcontractor hired by Delgado.
Typically, a licensed general contractor is responsible for hiring subcontractors, particularly those who hold specialty licenses needed to perform certain tasks such as electrical, plumbing, roof and HVAC work.
In a brief interview with News 6, Harrison claimed he was not acting as a contractor on Salgado's home renovation.
"There was no contract," Harrison said.
The former pastor also said he was not planning to subcontract out work listed on the cost estimate that required licensed contractors to complete.
Instead, he claimed the homeowner was responsible for arranging a roofer and HVAC specialist.
"(Delgado) would have been paying them directly," he said.
Delgado disputed Harrison's description of the financial arrangement, saying Harrison was responsible for paying any subcontractors.
A little more than 24 hours before this story was published, Harrison sent an email to News 6, offering to further explain his role on Delgado's home renovation job.
"I would like to meet with you sometime tomorrow and show you exactly what's going on here," Harrison wrote. "What you do with that information is completely up to you. No 'he-said, she-said'. Just facts."
News 6 replied to Harrison's email, agreeing to the meeting. A reporter also left a voicemail on Harrison's phone line, confirming that News 6 was interested in hearing his explanation.
Harrison did not respond to the email or phone call by the time this article was published.
Delgado told News 6 he "fired" Harrison's company earlier this month, in part because the renovation project was taking much longer than the six weeks he expected it to be completed.
The homeowner said he asked Harrison for a partial refund for the work that was not yet complete.
Earlier this week, Harrison gave Delgado a check for $3,000 and suggested he would be paying the homeowner an additional $3,750 at a later time, Delgado said.
"He seems like he's trying to do the right thing," Delgado said.
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