KEY WEST, March 5, 2020 – A Homestead man who said he could perform stucco repairs at a Key West condominium complex and accepted $50,000 to do it allegedly never performed any of the work and refused to return the money, despite being given several opportunities to do so.
Steven Howard, 51, was arrested March 4 on a felony charge of larceny of $20,000 to $100,000 based on a probable-cause affidavit prepared by State Attorney’s Office Investigator Frank Zamora. Monroe County Sheriff’s Office deputies took Howard into custody during a traffic stop at mile marker 105 in Key Largo.
On April 12, 2018, Howard sent the Halyard Condominium Association Inc. a proposal to perform the work for $50,000. On June 28, 2019, the association accepted the proposal and sent Howe a check made out to Stucco Steve. The association president subsequently contacted Howard numerous times asking for a copy of a building permit and start date for the work and he responded saying he was injured and would either return the money or provide a start date. He provided neither.
The only response the association president received was a phone call from Howard’s attorney Michael Lutfy of Sunny Isles Beach telling her to “leave Mr. Howard alone.” Both the Key West and Monroe County building departments could find no records Stucco Steve received a permit for the work.
The association’s attorney and Lutfy spoke on October 4, 2019, then four days later the association attorney followed up with an email saying, in part, “I hope I did not understate the urgency of this matter. I need to hear back from you immediately with your client’s response or simply have your client return the $50,000.”
On December 4, a day after the association attorney filed a complaint with the State Attorney’s Office, Investigator Zamora called Howard and Howard told him his injury was the reason he didn’t do the work. Zamora told him to “make it right” and return the money. Howard said he didn’t have it.
Two days later, the association attorney called Zamora saying he and Lutfy had spoken again and “their conversation was not a positive one.” Zamora later called Lutfy and told him an investigation was underway. Lutfy became argumentative so Zamora ended the call. Lutfy later called back and Zamora told him if the $50,000 wasn’t returned, an arrest warrant would be issued.
Howard was given one more chance. On January 15, the condo association sent him a letter demanding the stucco work start within 30 days or the money be returned. Howard signed for the certified letter on February 5 but didn’t respond again.