A North Naples man was arrested Thursday after detectives say he operated a phony air conditioning company that defrauded an elderly client out of more than $14,000.
Marian Kola, 24, faces charges of grand theft ($10,000 to $20,000), theft of $10,000 to $50,000 from a victim over age 65, elderly exploitation, contracting without a license and fraudulent use of an ID.
Detectives say Kola was operating his business, Kola Cooling, without a license, using a business license number belonging to a local fire department inspector. That person’s number was displayed on Kola’s business cards and on his service vehicle.
In June 2021, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation sanctioned Kola for being unlicensed. The following month, he was providing an estimate and then installing a home air conditioning system, unlicensed, for the 77-year-old victim, arrest reports said. The victim, who has early dementia, hired Kola to install a brand-new system. Kola failed to tell her the system he installed actually came from a second-hand warehouse in Tampa and that it didn’t come with a warranty because it wasn’t registered with the manufacturer.
The victim began having problems with the system within weeks of the installation. Reports said Kola returned to her home to perform repairs, charging her for parts. In July 2022, he returned again to perform more repairs. Kola charged her $340. She gave him her credit card, which he swiped through an app on his tablet and she signed for. He then asked her for a check for $340, causing her to believe her card hadn’t worked. She then gave him a check for $340 which he deposited.
The next day, the victim received an invoice from an app Kola uses charging her another $340 and an additional $13,950 for a new air conditioning system. Reports said the victim repeatedly attempted to contact Kola about the fraudulent charges, but he never returned her calls or emails.
In October 2022, the victim happened to see Kola’s work van in a shopping center parking lot. She boxed the van in with her car in an attempt to speak to him, but Kola drove over a curb and median to avoid her, reports said.
Detectives say Kola was “completely untruthful” when they interviewed him in December 2022. They located him at his home on Thursday and took him into custody.