JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) partnered with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) and the Department of Financial Services, Division of Workers’ Compensation to conduct a joint sting operation January 19 – 22 targeting unlicensed contractors in the Clay County area. Nine individuals provided estimates for construction and/or electrical services in which they do not hold the proper license to perform.
“Unlicensed activity is a common problem Florida consumers face when their home or business is affected by structural damage or requires construction services,” said DBPR Secretary Ken Lawson. “Unlicensed individuals take advantage of homeowners by offering to make repairs for dubiously low prices, performing substandard work and often leaving without finishing the job. I am proud to partner with such strong agencies to combat unlicensed activity in the Jacksonville area and better protect Floridians from becoming victims of unlicensed activity.”
“The illegal practices of unlicensed contractors only seem like a minor crime to those who haven’t been victimized,” Clay County Undersheriff Craig Aldrich said. “This is a very serious matter for property owners who were swindled out of their hard-earned money, who received substandard or faulty work at their home or were left with incomplete projects that had to be completed by someone else. The lowest bid from an unlicensed contractor is lower for a reason. This is why the state requires licensing and we encourage our county’s residents to research potential contractors thoroughly before letting them begin work. We’ll commit resources whenever possible to locating and arresting contractors who operate outside the law in hopes of saving homeowners from this type of financial hassle and heartache.”
“Illegitimate contractors are a threat because they fail to provide safe and cost-effective repairs for homeowners, and these off-the-books operations often fail to carry workers’ compensation policies that protect workers from the detrimental costs of on-the-job injuries,” said CFO Jeff Atwater. “Operations like this one help to address the problem head-on and deter others who might think this is a way to quickly earn a buck. Our joint goals are to protect consumers and the integrity of the construction industry.”
The following individuals were arrested by the Clay County Sheriff’s Office and issued Notices to Cease and Desist or citations by DBPR:
- Ralph Eugene McDonald, age 54
- Benjamin David Hallenbeck, age 32
- George Wallace Thomas, age 58
- Richard A. Martinson, age 50
- James Frank Little, age 43
- Majid Alaei Ghane, age 32
- Christopher James Rubright Sr., age 43
- Michael Leon Johns, age 44
- Anthony Lamar Bloodworth, age 60
Unlicensed activity occurs when an individual offers to perform or performs services that require a state license and the individual does not hold the required license. 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 professional licenses with DBPR online at www.myfloridalicense.com, by calling (850) 487-1395 or by downloading the free DBPR Mobile app through iTunes or the Google Play app store.
Unlicensed activity is against the law and can result in misdemeanor or felony charges if an individual is convicted. DBPR forwards all unlicensed activity cases to the local State Attorney’s Office. Floridians are asked to report any suspected unlicensed activity by emailing ULA@myfloridalicense.com, calling the Unlicensed Activity Hotline at 1-(866)-532-1440 or submitting a complaint directly from their mobile device using the free DBPR Mobile app.
The Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s mission is to license efficiently and regulate fairly. The department licenses and regulates more than one million businesses and professionals ranging from hotels and restaurants, real estate agents and certified public accountants to veterinarians, contractors and cosmetologists. For more information, please visit www.myfloridalicense.com.
More information about the Clay County Sheriff’s Office is available at www.claysheriff.com.
Anyone with information about suspected insurance fraud is asked to call 1-800-378-0445. Citizens who provide tips can remain anonymous. The Department of Financial Services has awarded nearly $350,000 to nearly 60 citizens as part of its Anti-Fraud Reward Program. The program rewards individuals up to $25,000 for information that directly leads to an arrest and conviction in an insurance fraud scheme.