Unlicensed Contractor Arrested in Jacksonville
August 27, 2008
JACKSONVILLE—Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation investigators, in partnership with the Duval County State Attorney’s Office, arrested Stephen Varhall yesterday for unlicensed contracting. Varhall is accused of taking a total of $96,000 from consumers and has not performed any work.
“Florida takes the threat of unlicensed contracting very seriously. Although our main goal is to bring people into compliance, we are prepared to take action to enforce the law,” said Secretary Charles W. Drago. “It is our duty to protect the public from unscrupulous individuals who have cheated consumers out of thousands of dollars.”
After receiving a tip from the Baker County Building Official, Bob Hathcox, DBPR investigators issued a cease and desist notice to Varhall. Mr. Varhall came to the DBPR Jacksonville Office on Aug. 26 to pick up a cease and desist order issued in conjunction with two recent unlicensed activity violations. DBPR has four prior cases of unlicensed contracting against Varhall, two of which had been forwarded to the State Attorney’s Office for possible criminal charges.
DBPR staff recognized that Varhall had two outstanding orders to take the defendant into custody until a judgment is paid, one from Duval County for unlicensed contracting and one from Georgia on an unrelated charge. Staff contacted the SAO, and agents came to the DBPR office and arrested Varhall.
The Department works diligently through both enforcement and education efforts to deter and eliminate the dangerous activity. When hiring a contractor, consumers should:
- Always ask to see the contractor’s license.
- Note the license number and verify that the license is current and in good standing. To check a license, call 850.487.1395 or visit www.MyFloridaLicense.com.
- Ask any potential contractor for references and check each one.
- Beware of scams when contractors ask for all the money up front or will only accept cash.
- Beware of contractors who arrive in unmarked vehicles, possibly from out-of-state.
- Be cautious of writing checks made payable to individuals, especially when dealing with a company.
- Get everything in writing, including a detailed description of the work to be completed, a completion date and the total cost.
- Don’t sign the certificate of completion until you are satisfied with the work done.
Consumers are urged to report unlicensed activity of any of the professions regulated by the department by calling 1.866.532.1440.
The Department’s mission is to license efficiently and regulate fairly. The Department licenses more than one million businesses and professionals ranging from real estate agents, veterinarians, and accountants to contractors and cosmetologists. For more information, please visit www.MyFloridaLicense.com.