Unlicensed Contractors Nabbed in Undercover Sting
Press Conference to Announce Results on Friday Morning
March 14, 2008
WHO: Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office
WHAT: Press Conference on Undercover Sting Operation – Unlicensed Contractors
WHEN: Friday, March 14, 10 a.m.
WHERE: Press Briefing Room, Police Memorial Building, 501 E. Bay St., Jacksonville, Fla.
JACKSONVILLE - Yesterday, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (Department) and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Economic Crimes Unit (JSO) concluded an undercover sting operation, arresting* 16 unlicensed contractors and issuing citations to more than 30 individuals for soliciting work requiring a license. The purpose of unlicensed activity sting operations is to protect consumers from the dangers of working with unlicensed individuals, which may result in personal or financial harm, and to protect licensed professionals from unfair competition with unlicensed individuals.
“Public safety is our top priority, and by catching these unlicensed individuals, we’ve eliminated these situations where consumers would have been at risk,” said Interim Secretary Chuck Drago. “Also, this sting demonstrates the need for consumers to educate themselves before beginning work with a contractor.”
For six months prior to the operation, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Economic Crime Unit worked with the Northeast Florida Roofing & Sheet Metal Association, Jacksonville Master Electricians Association and the City of Jacksonville Building Department to collect unlicensed individuals’ advertisements for roofing and electrical services.
A Department Investigator and Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Detective went undercover in a decoy house and obtained estimates for jobs that require a state license, including plumbing, electrical and roofing work. Twelve of the arrested were issued $2,500 Notices to Appear (arrested without booking)*, as well as Cease & Desist Orders by Department Investigators. Four others were transported to jail due to other charges or warrants. An additional 33 individuals will be issued $1,000 Citations and Cease & Desist Orders for advertising to perform services that require state licensure. Two individuals will have warrants served against them today.
“Our Economic Crimes Unit did outstanding work on this sting operation, in partnership with DBPR. Again, citizen tips and complaints provided the foundation for the success of this operation. We do want to remind everyone that many crimes of opportunity, like property crimes and economic crimes are preventable if citizens exercise caution,” said Sheriff John H. Rutherford.
Here are some consumer tips to prevent unlicensed activity:
- Always ask to see the 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 for references and check each one.
- Beware of scams when individuals ask for all the money up front, will only accept cash, or solicit door-to-door targeting the elderly and uninformed.
- Never pay in cash, especially a large up-front deposit.
- 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.
- Do not sign the certificate of completion until you are satisfied with the work done.
The Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s mission is to license efficiently and regulate fairly. The Department licenses nearly 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.