View Full Version : Continuing woes for Avalon Homes customers

10-03-2007, 03:55 PM
Continuing woes for Avalon Homes customers

Oct 2, 2007 11:39 PM EDT

He's a Sarasota builder accused of leaving several North Port families in financial ruin. Now more families are coming forward, and tonight, Joseph Pufta is facing even more charges.

Since last December, ABC 7 has been doing stories on Joseph Pufta and what these families were accusing this builder of. In April, Pufta was arrested on 20 felony counts of Misappropriation of Funds and one count of Grand Theft. Now, just yesterday an additional 26 charges were filed against Pufta after more families went to North Port Police.

If you watch Alisha Buckingham with her 8-year-old son or her 5-year-old daughter, or you watch her husband hold their 3-month-old baby, you know family is the most important thing to them.

The couple in their early 30's saved their money and took out a loan to build a house. It was their dream. "A family and a two-story house."

The Buckinghams contracted with Avalon Homes. The CEO of the Avalon is 62-year-old Joseph Pufta.

"The last draw Pufta took off the bank loan was $43,000, and he never did any work after receiving that money." No work has been done on the Buckingham's home in more than a year. Now they say the bank is coming after them for $168,000 for their still-unfinished house. A house they can't afford to finish, and a house no one wants to buy.

"I've cried about it already, so I'm waiting to see where everything goes and go from there."

The Buckinghams are one of the latest families to press charges against Pufta.

Last December, ABC 7 first showed you the work left undone at Sheila Schaller's home in North Port, and what was not done at Darrin and Kristi Morehouse's home. They were families facing financial ruin because they said Joseph Pufta left them with half-finished homes, and thousands of dollars in liens.

Four months ago, Pufta's Sarasota attorney Henry Lee blamed Pufta's actions on a "market downturn", and said prosecutors would have trouble proving Pufta "intended to commit a crime."

But with more victims coming forward, and Pufta now facing a total of 47 counts of misappropraiation of funds, fruad and larceny, Lee didn't want to talk today.

We tried to speak with Pufta, but no one answered at his home. Last year when we tried to talk to him, he didn't want to talk either.

When things were different, the Buckingham's spelled their names in the wet concrete of what was supposed to be the garage of their dream home. It's a dream they say Pufta shattered.

The Buckinghams have to move in with family members up north and file bankruptcy. "I despise that man. He's ruined everything I've worked to build."

Court records show Pufta was scheduled to go to trial in December. His attorney told us today that with these new charges, the trial date will likely be pushed back. And he said, he's not sure this will go to trial. He said it's too early to tell. The Buckinghams though are hoping it does, and they say they will be in court for every single day of it.