Comfort came at a cost for Carolyn Collier.
"Over $1400 dollars right now… that's for the repairs," Carolyn explains. The woman, already in her 70s, still works to pay the bills. Last summer, the bill for a new A/C unit from "AAA Air Conditioning and Refrigeration" cost Carolyn $3,700 dollars.
"In the process of putting the unit in, they burned up a motor… which they replaced it that day," Carolyn remembers. Then, "they put the unit on a weak floor. It wasn't strong enough to hold that unit, [so] it tilted and water ran in on my floor."
"For that to collapse, tells me that the platform base was never rebuilt, was never redone," says Andy Brunkala. He's a member and former president of the Air Conditioning Contractors Association of Central Florida. "Some contractors, unlicensed contractors, do cut corners in that area."
FOX 35 talked with Brunkala about Carolyn Collier's experience. "The major reasons for anybody's system failing, usually within the first couple of months, are usually due to a poor installation," Brunkala told us.
Carolyn says her problems with "AAA Air Conditioning and Refrigeration" continued, and she paid for everything. "They weren't any more than gone; and I came home from work, and there was water running from the pipe," Carolyn recalls. "Come to find out, when he put the unit back in, the pipe cracked. But we had to pay him for a service call."
"AAA" made at least four trips to her house for a new and different issue each time. She saved every invoice and snapped pictures of every problem.
Finally, Trane, the A/C manufacturer told her to call someone else, "Pro Tech," who documented at least nine problems.
"They charged me $1268 dollars and something to repair the things that needed to be repaired that the other company caused," Carolyn explained to FOX 35.
Andy Brunkala with the ACCACF adds, "I think part of it is being driven by the economy. Consumers are looking for the lowest price they can find, and the unlicensed contractor is not playing by the same rules. They don't have the same guidelines as us licensed contractors."
FOX 35 tried calling "AAA," but most of their listed numbers didn't work. When we did get someone on the phone calls were never returned.
So, we tried finding the owner of "AAA" -- Arlie Hash. Turns out, that's not his real name, and when the State of Florida realized that, 3 years ago, they revoked his license!
Arlie Hash is really Arick Rinaldo, a convicted sex offender from Texas. Rinaldo has also been arrested twice in South Florida for kidnapping and running from police, then convicted for attacking an officer.
When we tried tracking down Rinaldo, we got no answer at the Orlando address listed with the state. Nor did we find "AAA" in the Winter Park shopping center listed with the Better Business Bureau.
So, we asked the BBB, and they found their problems with "AAA" misleading them too, using multiple addresses and numbers.
After FOX 35's call to the BBB, local President Judy Pepper says they "immediately suspended the company's accreditation with the Better Business Bureau."
Statewide, "AAA" has nearly 80 complaints, getting a rating of "F."
"Looking at those complaints as a whole, it gives rise to concern," the BBB's Pepper told us. "There are some very good, excellent air conditioning companies in Florida, but there will always be those on the edge who take advantage of consumers or their situation."
Back at Carolyn Collier's home, she's still out a lot money. "I would like to be reimbursed for what I put in it… just the repairs," she says. In total, Carolyn spent more than $5,100 dollars while learning one very tough lesson. "I think anything else I get done in this house is going to have to have a good recommendation from somebody."
On the web:
To search BBB reviews before hiring a company, check:
To verify an air conditioning contractor is licensed in Florida, visit:
In Central Florida, you can also find out if a company professionally accredited here: