Prosecutors dropped two criminal cases against a local roofer once accused of defrauding a pair of Citrus County customers out of their deposits for work.
Assistant State Attorney Bryan Caughey filed a notice March 3, announcing his office would no longer prosecute Jason Lee Beville for his two unrelated charges of grand theft, court records show.
Beville, a 37-year-old Lecanto resident and president of Elite Roofing & Gutters Inc. in Crystal River, was arrested last April on the third-degree felonies.
Up until Caughey’s announcement, Beville was accused of scamming two locals out of a total $14,700 in deposits from January and April 2018, without completing their separate roofing jobs.
“I’m extremely happy they were finally dropped … and I’m looking forward to moving on, moving forward,” Beville said Monday about continuing his 14-year-old company’s promotional free-roof giveaways and donations to area children and people with cancer.
Caughey wrote in his court filing there wasn’t enough legally-sufficient evidence to prove Beville’s guilt.
In a phone interview Monday, Caughey said in order to convict Beville of grand theft under Florida law, prosecutors have to prove the roofer took his customers' down payments and put it all toward personal gain, and not running a business.
However, Caughey added, there's no evidence to show Beville pocketed deposits for himself with no intent of completing the two roofing contracts.
"That criminal element comes from that intent," Caughey said.
Beville made efforts to use those funds to buy roofing materials and labor, but was inefficient in completing the jobs, Caughey said.
"We have evidence he was a poor business manager, but not a criminal business manager," Caughey said. "He was trying to complete the work, but he was doing a bad job at it.
"It's a case better heard in in civil court."
Beville’s Inverness attorney, Michael Kovach, agreed Monday his client's case belonged in civil court, not criminal, and Elite Roofing’s reputation was damaged as a result.
“The bottom line to this entire thing is that it just wasn’t analyzed from the get-go to make a determination that there was no crime,” Kovach said. “It’s not that he’s not guilty, it’s that he’s innocent of a crime.
“Jason has felt for this entire year … so much emotional turmoil,” Kovach added, “and no one understands that unless they’ve actually been through it.”
There’s no current civil case pending against Beville in Citrus County, according to Kovach and court records.
Prior to Beville’s charges being dropped, Kovach and Caughey were negotiating for Beville to enroll in a pre-trial intervention (PTI) program, allowing Beville a faster way to pay restitution to affected homeowners while not being convicted of a felony.
Those talks became moot when prosecutions were dismissed.
Prior reports show Florida authorities were also investigating Beville for similar theft offenses in central Florida and the Panhandle.
Kovach said the Office of Statewide Prosecution has not filed, and believes it won’t file charges against Beville, who claims he’s never done jobs in those areas in question.
“Statewide’s never contacted me back,” Kovach said. “Statewide’s never filed anything and it would be our position there won’t be any.”
“We’ve never been there to work,” Beville added. “We’ve never been down there to do any estimates.”
Caughey said he's spoken with the prosecutor's office, but doesn't know what its investigation into Beville has revealed, if anything.
A spokesperson with the Florida Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution could not be reached Monday for comment.
In February, the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR) revoked Beville’s active roofing contractor license, which had been effective since October 2006, DBPR's website shows.
DBPR spokesman Patrick R. Fargason said Monday his department can not comment on a licensee’s “current or ongoing disciplinary proceeding.”
Neither Beville nor Kovach would comment on the current status of the roofer’s licensure.