Lee Schools warning businesses about scam
LEE COUNTY - Some southwest Florida businesses say they were scammed by a company pretending to represent the Lee County School District - and are trying to warn others before it happens again.
Joanne Klare's story starts the way it ends - with a phone call.
"So you were sold right away?," asked Fox 4 reporter Matt Grant.
"Sold right away," said Klare. "It was for the school."
The owner of Klare's Carpets in Lee County got a call last month from a company called Community Connect.
They told her they were working with the school district and for $395 she could advertise her company logo on a banner at Cypress Lake High School that would be displayed at all football games.
It's the same school her two daughters attend.
"You thought you were doing something good?," asked Grant.
"Yes," said Klare. "Family business helping the local community school."
The company then made another offer apparently milking her for more money.
"And then she says, 'And you know, I can offer you three other high schools for the same size banner for an additional $250," said Klare.
Those other schools included Dunbar and Fort Myers high Schools.
"Well, it's for Lee County Schools, we're in," said Klare.
And out - $645. After cashing her check, she says the company disconnected its email and stopped returning her calls.
"It's just flabbergasting," said Klare. "I'm thinking there's other businesses out there that are gonna get scammed."
"It's not legitimate in any way, shape or form," confirmed school district spokesperson Joe Donzelli, who called the scam "just really despicable."
Donzelli says it's not the first time the company has done this, saying Community Connect used to be called Varsity Signs - but the scam was the same.
"They're ripping off our good name," said Klare. "And that's just deplorable."
According to receipts, and the Web site for Varsity Signs, the company is located at 1217 E. Cape Coral Pkwy, suite 159.
We checked and it turns out that "suite" is actually a UPS PO Box.
"They hurt the schools," said Klare. "That's the worst part."
We asked Klare to call the company one last time - but the number was disconnected - leaving her on the hook for more than $600.
"That's a lot of money in today's economy," she said. "That's a lot of money."
Varsity Signs has an F rating with the Better Business Bureau.
Donzelli says always check with the school district first to verify if an advertising offer is legitimate.
After alerting the Lee County Sheriff's office to Klare's story, their economic crimes unit called her immediately and are now investigating.
Fox 4 tried to reach Community Connect but phone numbers listed for them don't work or are disconnected. Their email address also no longer works.
Click on the link above to see Klare's receipts.