The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office arrested nine people on multiple charges during Operation Freelancer IV, an investigation to protect citizens from unlicensed contractors.
Detectives worked with the Sarasota County Building Department, the Florida Department of Financial Services Division of Insurance Fraud and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) to contact individuals advertising home repair services that require a license to complete. As individuals arrived at the predetermined residence last week, the DBPR database was checked to determine if they were licensed, registered as a contractor, and/or required workers compensation coverage or exemption, to perform the work they proposed to do.
In all, the operation resulted in 11 felony charges and seven misdemeanor charges. Those arrested have a total of 40 prior felony and misdemeanor charges as well as eight convictions. One of the defendants, Timothy Jewell, has several prior arrests for Aggravated Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer with a Weapon and Resisting Arrest with Violence. Another, Raul Morey-Arenas, has six prior felony charges in both Sarasota and Manatee counties dating back to 2008 for Burglary and Uttering a Forged Instrument. The following individuals were arrested during the three-day operation:
- Joseph Hopp Jr., DOB 1/31/1961, 5310 17th Court W., Bradenton
- Mark Lamoureux, DOB 4/6/1948, 5200 Densaw Road, North Port
- Richard Hayez, DOB 7/7/1950, 7103 Gama Court, North Port
- Raul Morey-Arenas, DOB 4/22/1959, 2068 Hillview Street, Sarasota
- Terence Miller, DOB 6/23/1961, 3382 Trinity Street, North Port
- Timothy Jewell, DOB 10/22/1960, 1074 Deer Hollow Way, Sarasota
- David Pond, DOB 10/10/1973, 8446 Knollwood Drive, Myrtle Beach
- Jonathan King, DOB 10/16/1975, 7192 Sussix Lane, Englewood
- Charles Cochran, DOB 12/16/1961, 2708 Starlite Lane, Port Charlotte
Since 2012, the sheriff’s office has assigned detectives to investigate claims against people who engage in contracting work without proper licenses, permits or certification. A first offense usually results in a civil citation by code enforcement but subsequent violations lead to misdemeanor or felony criminal charges. The defendants also receive a cease and desist order from the State of Florida.
“Maintenance operations like these should be a good reminder for consumers to always seek licensed contractors to perform work on their homes or businesses,” said Sheriff Tom Knight. “Consumers are exposing themselves to financial and physical risk by allowing these people to enter their home, unlicensed, and in some cases, with criminal histories. Let this be a warning to criminals who come into our community and illegally solicit services, that their behavior will not be tolerated.”
“It has been rewarding to partner with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office and the Sarasota County Building Department to raise awareness about the dangers of hiring unlicensed contractors in Florida,” said DBPR Secretary Jonathan Zachem. “Unlicensed activity is a serious concern for the general public, particularly during hurricane season. Partnerships like this are vital in our efforts to advise the public about the benefits of hiring licensed professionals.”
Florida law sets specific rules and guidelines for obtaining professional licensure, and the people who have met these requirements are held to professional standards. Consumers can verify licenses with the DBPR online at www.myfloridalicense.com, by calling 850.487.1395, or download the free DBPR Mobile app through iTunes or the Google Play store.
To check a Sarasota County license, call the Customer Service and Permit Center at 941.861.6678 or 941.861.3029. To report someone you suspect is acting as an unlicensed contractor or performing work without a permit, call 941.861.5000.