Business owner left unopened cigar lounge after being scammed out of $26,000

Jacksonville, FL – A Westside business owner has accused a power company of taking his money without completing the job.

Andrew Messiana was supposed to open a cigar lounge called Tobacco Galore at least nine months ago, but his plans were involuntarily interrupted when Covenant Electric didn’t complete the service.

Messina said he brought a 70-year-old building on the corner of Avenue Normandy and Avenue Lenox to transform it into a high-end cigar lounge. He said he hired an architect who came up with the design, then hired a licensed electrician from Leroy Bass, owner of Covenant Electric, based on a friend’s recommendation.

Bass was supposed to install a new electrical system to bring the building to code, which was required before Messiana opened. He paid the company $26,000.

Messina said Bass started work in October 2021, but not until November. On January 12, 2021, the electrician told him he had other work to do, so he stopped working in the cigar lounge and told Messina that he would bring his assistant back with him.

Since then, Messina said, Bass didn’t show up for work until August. The 29th of this year. He was then told it would take another 4 weeks for all electrical equipment to be code compliant.

“For three weeks, he asked for more money. I tried to find out why,” Messina said.

Then, Messina said, about five weeks ago, Bass came back with just one meter installed.

“[He] Leave everything outside and drive away, that was the last time I saw him,” Messina said. “He didn’t answer my calls. He doesn’t answer my text messages anymore. “

Messina said he felt he was being tricked by Bass.

According to the Better Business Bureau, Covenant Electric has been watching it. The company had received two complaints prior to this incident. The most recent complaint is of a homeowner complaining about failing city inspections after work on the electrical system started in 2020, but it was never completed.

According to the Florida Department of Commerce and Regulation, there have been multiple complaints against the electric utility and its owner, Bass, dating back to 2010.

The BBB’s Tom Stephens explains the best way to avoid these problems.

“Do your homework outside of these recommendations. Add “scam” or “review” to the Google company name with “scam” or “review” and you’ll see if anything happens; it will be available on the web somewhere,” Stephens said.

Stephens also recommends going online to see if the contractor is licensed and checking that the license is up to date. Additionally, Stephen says to contact multiple contractors to see which one is the best fit for the project.

News4JAX spoke with Bass, who denied any wrongdoing.

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