An ex-con who refers to himself as the “Granite Gangster” of Holly Hill is facing a felony charge of contracting without a license as a trail of complaints have made their way to local and state investigators.
Charles D. Ogden, 48, of Ormond Beach, achieved notoriety in 2021 for hosting a Christmas giveaway at which he wore a gold Santa suit, and for tossing out stacks of dollar bills at the city’s annual Christmas parade. Both events occurred the year after he filed for bankruptcy protection, listing personal assets of just $35,700 against liabilities topping $500,000, including past-due medical bills, rent and car loans, as well as unpaid taxes and tens of thousands in civil judgments filed by dissatisfied customers.
His business, most commonly known as East Coast Countertops, is marked by hulking slabs of granite and other materials beneath a pole sign at 1976 N. Nova Road. It’s labeled ECC, but is currently registered with the state as Daytona Construction and Remodeling LLLP.
Ogden, who was convicted of misdemeanor contracting without a license in 2021, also served more than three years in the Florida Department of Corrections after being convicted of sale of cocaine, a third-degree felony, in 2002.
Ogden has pleaded not guilty in the ongoing criminal case against him.
A woman in the ECC office on Monday said Ogden was not available for comment, referring questions to his attorney, Jason Haar of Daytona Beach. Haar did not return a call last week.
Neither Ogden nor his son, Charles Ogden Jr., possess a contracting license, according to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Ogden Jr. owns Ceejay Remodeling LLC, which operates from the same address as ECC.
The older Ogden, who frequently posts on TikTok and Facebook, wrote on Nov. 8 about the challenges of his life, including coming from a “poor and broken abusive family,” serving time in prison, struggling financially for much of his adult life and surviving cancer.
“(I) struggled to build a business for my kids future,” he wrote. “Customers and haters try to destroy me. Made several bad choices on my own. But yet I get up every day no matter what I’ve been through and give it my 100%”
The post was part of a feed that also includes photos of his car collection, which has included Lamborghinis, classic 1960s Impalas and a Mustang.
Customer complaint leads to felony charge
Ogden’s arrest on Dec. 22, 2022, came after Port Orange police took a complaint from Melanie Cain, a city resident whose home had flooded during Hurricane Ian three months earlier.
Less than a month after Ian, Cain was scheduled to undergo brain surgery to remove a tumor. She was having difficulty finding a contractor, as thousands of local homes had been damaged by Ian, which had been downgraded to a tropical storm when it passed through Volusia County.
Cain found Ogden on Facebook and when she contacted him, he was immediately responsive.
“I was desperate because I was going into brain surgery,” she said.
Cain quoted from the text response she received from Ogden: “We can do demo, install new drywall, we also texture and finish paint. From my house you are 23 minutes away. I can come either now or later.”
She thought: “Really? I couldn’t even get anybody to call me back.”
So she jumped at the chance to hire Ogden without backgrounding him and ECC.
At Cain’s home in October 2022, a mold mitigation company removed portions of walls and insulation that had been wet. Then she had Ogden’s company start work on installing new drywall, insulation and plaster, while also agreeing to have ECC remodel other parts of her home, including her kitchen, Cain told The News-Journal.
ECC workers were at her home for two or three days in early November, but before long, Hurricane Nicole was headed toward Florida, so they ceased work. She and Ogden exchanged a few messages, but Ogden soon stopped responding.
“And then they were avoiding me. He wouldn’t return my phone calls. He wouldn’t return my text messages. And then I think I’m getting ripped off here,” Cain said.
She threatened to call police, she said, and then Ogden responded, saying he was going to bring her the kitchen cabinets they had discussed at one point.
She told him no, that he was fired and that she didn't want him to come back to her home. But he wouldn’t take no for an answer, insisting on delivering kitchen cabinets, she said.
“He hadn’t even measured my kitchen for cabinets. He didn’t even know what I wanted," she said. "So what was he going to drop off?”
Because Ogden's workers left electrical wires dangling from the ceiling, she hired an electrician, who suggested she might have needed permits for the work. So she went to City Hall and learned that she indeed needed permits.
City code enforcement came to the home and put up a stop work order.
At that point, Nov. 22, 2022, Cain said she went to Holly Hill. She asked for a police escort and then approached ECC with a police sergeant. She told the staff there: “You’re fired.”
She asked for their contractor's license and worker's comp insurance.
“They couldn’t do it," she said.
Cain later told police that not only was ECC's work “substandard and shoddy,” portions of it including plumbing, electrical and structural changes also required a contractor’s license, which neither Ogden nor ECC possessed, the report states.
ECC removed a wall she didn't know was load-bearing, she said. She had to hire a different contractor to install a securing beam and finish much of the house, but not all. Cain is still living with an unfinished bathroom that ECC had begun to remodel without a permit.
In all, Cain said Ogden owes her $34,200.
Desperate times, 'desperate' customers
Cain is among several Volusia County families who shared with The News-Journal similar horror stories about their dealings with Ogden and the business.
Like Cain, the others say they, too, were desperate to find someone to repair their homes, which flooded during Ian. They learned of Ogden on Facebook and other social media sites, where he has posts advertising his business as “Licenses. Insured. Comp.” They also liked him.
“He’s so charismatic that you would not believe that he would ever lie to you,” said Melissa Herlehy, who, along with her husband, Patrick, say they have filed a complaint with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. That agency lists five complaints lodged against Ogden in the last year.
The Herlehys paid Ogden $48,000, more than 90% of Ogden’s bill for work on their home that now all has to be redone because of substandard craftsmanship, failure to obtain permits and working on certain aspects of the home, including electrical, that require a permit.
Patrick Herlehy said ECC used the wrong screws to attach new cabinets to their walls, creating a hazard that nearly caused his wife to be electrocuted.
Melissa Herlehy went to plug in a coffeemaker.
“I was about 6 inches away and a lightning bolt about this long came out of the wall," she said. "Luckily, I was looking at it as I was plugging it back in. Had I looked away, I would have got the full jolt.”
Melissa Herlehy relayed that story to Ogden, and said he responded: "If you almost get in a car accident, you don’t stop driving your car, do you?"
The Herlehys say they regret not doing more research on Ogden and ECC, but said they were already reeling from the cancer death of their oldest son the year before Ian destroyed the first floor of their two-story Port Orange home.
“We’re already depressed and sad and all that, and then we lose our home," Patrick Herlehy said. "We’re desperate. We’re desperate. We want our house back.”
After the storm, the Herlehys were able to stay, but had to live upstairs.
“It was like camping. I had no kitchen. I had plastic tables set up in the garage with a toaster and a crock pot, and that was my kitchen,” Melissa Herlehy said.
But once the next contractor starts work repairing what ECC did, Melissa Herlehy said they will have to move out, likely for six months.
Patrick Herlehy said hearing the stories of Cain and others appalls him.
“Everyone has the same problems,” he said. “That’s what sucks.”
Disabled Edgewater veteran says she's lost $25,000
Tammi Rohring, a disabled U.S. Marine Corps veteran who lives in Edgewater, said she made a complaint to her city’s police department that Ogden had bailed on a job she hired him to do with a $25,000 check.
Rohring has been living in a trailer parked on her front lawn since last year. She hired Ogden last fall. She had posted on an Edgewater community Facebook page and he responded. She also heard about ECC being a family business that's been around for nearly 20 years, and saw the company's trucks down the street working at two of her neighbors’ homes.
When Rohring spoke with Ogden, he told her he was a "good Christian man" with Christian values.
"We’ll take care of it. We’ll make it right," he told her.
“So I figured they must be OK," Rohring said.
Initially, she wanted him to remove all of her kitchen and bathroom countertops so the cabinets and walls beneath could be removed and reinstalled. He pitched her a different plan: All of the home's damage removal — drywall, insulation, rebuilding the cabinets, everything for $73,000.
She paid him $25,000 to get started, with the removal of the countertops as the first job.
A Baptist missionary group from Oklahoma arrived and helped her gut the house, removing the wet walls and insulation and handling mold mitigation, she said. They did everything but remove the base cabinets.
By December, ECC had not yet removed the countertops. Rohring said she was getting no response from Ogden.
"And I went to the permit office with the city and they told me he’s not a contractor with a license that they could find anywhere in the system," she said. "When I spoke with him, was it the 12th or 13th of December, … he’s like, 'No, you gave them the wrong name. It’s a different business name.'
"That’s when I started hearing different business names and things like that," she said, "and I asked him for the license and insurance information because I needed it for grant paperwork to try and get the rest of the money for repairs to get done. And he wouldn’t give it to me. He just danced all the way around the question and told me that I’d asked for the wrong thing and that’s why nobody knew who he was."
Rohring said she made a criminal complaint against Ogden and ECC last April. She is still waiting to see whether that results in a criminal case.
“Unless I go through a criminal proceeding with him, I’m not going to see anything," she said. "Restitution is my only hope of recovering (my $25,000)."
'Go ahead and sue me'
Rick Street, the Port Orange customer whose complaint in 2018 led to Ogden's 2021 conviction of the misdemeanor contracting without a license, said in an email he and his wife lost more than $20,000 for "an incomplete and lousy remodeling" job.
Even though Street's complaint led to a criminal conviction against Ogden, the unlicensed contractor's bankruptcy protected him against Street's civil complaint.
Street wrote: "In Chuck’s own words, 'I don’t have anything in my name so go ahead and sue me.'”
After Ian destroyed the first floor of their home, the Herlehys got assistance from FEMA and the Small Business Administration, which offered loans to help people get back into their homes.
Patrick Herlehy said he recently made his first payment on the SBA loan, even as he looks to find a way to pay another general contractor to redo the remaining work and fix the problems created by Ogden’s ECC crew.
“Not only did he get us for what we paid him — that’s out the window,” Melissa Herlehy said, “but now we have to pay to get it done again.”
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This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: 'Granite Gangster' of Holly Hill faces felony after customer complaints