Andre Leite of Coconut Creek, Florida was arrested last month for allegedly defrauding the city of Deerfield Beach of $300,000 by wrongfully representing himself as a licensed plumber. Leite, 50, was charged with fraud, money laundering, grand theft, forgery, and working as an unlicensed contractor.
According to the arrest report, Leite, who owns Andre Plumbing, was hired to fix toilets and sinks at city facilities from 2012 to 2016. He reportedly applied to become the city’s plumber by submitting the certificate and license number of Glaydson Machado Silva, the owner of GMS Plumbing in Fort Lauderdale.
While Leite’s application was approved, state statutes require a company to have its own license before it can contract services. Silva was reportedly surprised to learn Leite submitted his company’s license to the city. He said he knows Leite because he has employed him as a subcontractor.
In an interview with the Sun Sentinel, Leite said he didn’t know what he was doing was illegal. He blamed an accountant he hired for incorrectly filing the application paperwork which he signed.
Leite became the city’s go-to plumber when its facilities needed any plumbing work done. Frank Cristiano, the city’s facility manager, justified using Andre Plumbing because they are “more responsive to calls, have more familiarity with Deerfield Beach facilities and have lower rates,” according to the arrest report.
Nothing about Andre Plumbing’s performance history indicated that Leite was unlicensed, but city officials terminated his contract in March 2016 after a state investigation revealed that he had misrepresented his qualifications as a plumber. That investigation led the Department of Professional Regulation to fine Leite $12,000 in March 2017.
A warrant for his arrest was filed after authorities discovered that he earned more than $300,000 for city work he should never have gotten. He also allegedly filed incomplete documentation about his work and understated his earnings to lower his workers compensation insurance premium.
Investigators also allege that Leite gave some city workers gifts, a practice which is prohibited by state ethics laws. Leite purportedly paid the golfing tournament fees for Cristiano and Bruce Dooley, a city worker who reports to Cristiano. Cristiano and Dooley have not been accused of any wrongdoing, records show.
James Terry of GreenTeam Service Corp., the city’s official primary plumber, reportedly complained about Liete’s plumbing contract with city.
“Here, we’re doing business legitimately, by the book,” Terry said. “We have to take continuing education classes, pay insurance, we rent a 3,500-square-foot office and warehouse . . . and Deerfield Beach is basically using an unlicensed handyman who operates out of his townhouse.”
Liete told the Sentinel that he went to plumbing school for four years. In Florida, unlicensed contract work can result in charges ranging from a misdemeanor to a third-degree felony.